Nancy Spero’s Torture of Women is an epic work. Two years in the making, it’s composed of fourteen panels and totals 125 feet. Juxtaposing image and text, Spero collaged imagery drawn from ancient mythology with hand-printed and typewritten words. She collected first person testimony culled from Amnesty International reports, news items on women missing or dead, definitions of torture from the twentieth and thirteenth centuries, as well as the retelling of violent Sumerian and Babylonian creation myths, such as Tiamat being disemboweled by Marduk to create the heavens. Completed in 1976, and published this spring by Siglio Press, Torture of Women bears witness to what is often officially denied or left unspoken. It reveals the presence of the silent consensus, which allows the violence to be state-sanctioned and eternally mythologized.

Nancy Spero (1926—2009) is regarded as a pioneering feminist artist whose work confronts social and political injustice with artistic ingenuity. Unapologetically feminist, anarchic in spirit, and tenaciously political, Spero has received considerable international acclaim with more than a dozen solo museum shows around the world. While her work is now widely recognized, she worked in relative obscurity for almost twenty-five years, resisting the predominating inequality in the art world and beyond. This year Torture of Women was published in its entirety by Siglio Press, a retrospective catalog will be published by Prestel, and a solo exhibition at Centre.

Credit for each image: © Nancy Spero, Torture of Women, Siglio Press, 2010. Photography: National Gallery of Canada.

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2 Comments on “Torture of Women

  1. Nancy Spero’s book is extremely vital and so edifying. We need it more than ever when the second wave of feminism, of which I was a part in the 70″s, as shown in FEMINISTS WHO CHANGED AMERICA, 1963-77, U. of Illinois Press, is so forgotten. Again, here in America, we have young women torturing their own feet in ridiculous hobbling shoes, in order to be sexy. We have, in developed nations, an epidemic of anorexia and fashion designers who broadcast an image of breastless, buttockless girls with sad over made up clown eyes and crazy hairdos, causing young women to torture themselves, physically and psychologically, to fit a fake image of womanhoood. This is to contrast what goes on in other countries in Africa and the Mid East, China and Japan, etc. where women are literally tortured and beaten and given no human rights. We desperately need Nancy Spero’s book TORTURE OF WOMEN and I recommend it to all, to anyone of woman born!!!! She is a great pioneer and it was sad to see her die in 2009. I thank Guerica, a great and vital magazine, for highlighting and featuring Spero’s important and vital book. We will not be human, not fully human, until be recognize the full equality of the half of humanity that is estrogen driven, rather than testosterone driven. And, don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of good men in this world, fathers and brothers, who would agree and I love them as much as the rest of the good people of all sexes who understand the saga of women’s lives through the ages. It is not a pretty history and Spero’s book augments our knowledge very profoundly.

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