An ad from Frederick’s of Hollywood lingerie. Two dildo dancers, after a painted plate from circa 500 BCE by the Greek painter Epiktetos. A prehistoric birth image. A group of smaller dildo dancers. And modern acrobats flipping backward. What do all of these images have in common? This sounds like a parody of a typical setup of an old joke. And it is a setup, but one for a layered, slow-revealing journey into the cultural and political themes and meanings of Nancy Spero’s artistic practice. At first the work may appear somewhat cartoony. However, the initial curiosity prompted by the combination and contrast of strong, memorable female images remains hauntingly in the viewer’s memory and thoughts. That’s the setup for the journey—looking for the connectors, deciphering the artist’s intent, trying to ascertain the work’s meaning. Carnival II ties motherhood and female sexuality together when they are usually positioned at odds with each other and revels in female exhibitionism, eroticism, birth, and pleasure.
Alvin D. Hall, Class of 1974
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