Nancy Spero

Nancy Spero is an American artist, feminist and activist whose art exposes the subjugation of women and the horrors of war.

Spero returned to New York in 1964 when the Vietnam War was escalating. Horrified by the images being broadcast in the news and the extent of human suffering, she created The War Series (1966–70) to visualise and condemn the atrocities of war. She permanently abandoned canvas and started painting, drawing, collaging and printing on paper.

During 2007, in the midst of the Iraq War, Spero revived these concepts and constructed a twenty-foot sculpture Maypole: Take No Prisoners. From the top of the steel pole flowed ribbons and chains carrying 200 images of decapitated heads.

Maypole-War pictures the maypole in motion with anguished faces spinning around. Maypoles are traditionally used for dancing around and communal celebration. Spero suggests that war has become a public ritual, exposing its cyclical nature. When describing the horrors of past and present war Spero stated, “It’s absolutely the same, damn it.”