All Blood is Red: Nancy Spero’s “War Series”
Some artists overwhelm you with their color and form. Some make you think. Even at her most beautiful, Nancy Spero is political. She bears witness.
When she and her family returned to the United States from Paris in 1964, Spero was angry. She felt marginalized as a woman and figurative artist in the abstract expressionist art world. Her arthritis was making it increasingly difficult to paint. She needed to “balance” her art and the needs of a husband and three children. And the United States was mired in Vietnam.
Spero abandoned the grandness and epic aims of oil painting and began to work intimately with ordinary materials: paper, pencil, pen and ink, collage , gouache. “The War Series” was an early result.
Are Spero’s images uncomfortable? Yes, and they are meant to be. No matter your beliefs, if you lived in the United States in the 1960’s, you could not escape the war.
These works are reflective, suggestive, and inspirational to me. My collage “Our Flag Was Still There” (above) was directly formed by Spero’s “War Series” work.
Her impassioned distress encompassed all armed conflict.
Her work forms the backbone of my collage “All Blood is Red” as well.
Visiting the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC for the first time a few years ago was a very intense experience; you could see it reflected on everyone’s faces. It remains an unfinished piece of our lives.
“There is no glory in battle worth the blood it costs.”
–General Dwight D. Eisenhower