Collection 1940s–1970s

Nancy Spero. Notes in Time. 1979 422

Cut-and-pasted painted paper, gouache, and pencil on joined sheets of paper, Overall: 20" x 210' (50.8 x 6400.8 cm). Gift of Harriet and Rick Meyer. © 2023 Nancy Spero

Artist, Nancy Spero: I'm Nancy Spero.

I took three years working on Notes in Time. I think the intent is to speak about women. It is a liberation of women's spirits and minds and body. It is celebratory—celebratory in kind of a wild, wanton, you know, way, that women can participate as freely as their male partners, I think.

I had glued together sheets of an English paper, Bodlean. That would be the basis. That would be the ground, rather than a canvas. And I stuck to paper because I loved the fragility of the paper. And then the messages that I put forth on this paper. I hoped it would be very shocking to come up to this ephemeral seeming work, and then see what it really was.

The panel #1 one was a quote. It says, "Certainly child birth is our mortality."

One thinks of children as also one's immortality that you carry on through the birth of children. So, that's the first panel. And it goes on.

There are 94 quotes mostly from books or magazines and stuff. Instead of painting directly onto the paper, it was collaged. I used all kinds of images, from the ancient goddesses to pop culture references.

I put just a lot of these little hand painted images I did of women of all sorts of situations. And mostly sexual. And even in the midst of all this, I have, which is rather fun, this woman running along. She's carrying under her arm an enormous penis.

But one of the last panels, I quote a letter that I got from a young woman artist that I had met. And she wrote to me how great it was she had gotten a divorce. So, I quoted her letter.

In Notes I decided I just didn't want woman as a victim. As imprisoned. I'm always pleased in the general terms when women start getting free of all these constraints that I have felt in growing up and in a certain time.