‘It Helped Me Maintain a Certain Vitality’: Watch the Late Nancy Spero Explain How Collaborating With Fellow Artists Strengthened Her Work

As part of a collaboration with Art21, hear news-making artists describe their inspirations in their own words.

Nancy Spero. Courtesy Art21.

Nancy Spero, the pioneering feminist artist who died in 2009, is the subject of a new show highlighting her works on paper at the Louisiana Museum of Art in Denmark. It is the artist’s first presentation in that country.

Spero, who was married to fellow artist Leon Golub, is best known for documenting the atrocities of war and political and social oppression, which she did in haunting installations, prints, drawings, and paintings that she made over the course of her decades-long career.

Yet while Spero’s work details horrific events and injustices, the artist’s practice was anything but grim. In fact, it was joyously collaborative.

In an exclusive interview filmed back in 2006 for Art21’s Extended Play series, Spero is seen working with an assistant in her New York studio. While some artists blanch at the idea of having another person’s work intermingling with theirs, Spero said that having artists printing her imagery “activates the work.”

I can’t even work now without working with other artists,” she says. “I really think that has helped me to maintain a certain vitality.”

Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s “Extended Play” series below. “Nancy Spero” is on view from January 23–March 26, 2020, at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark. 

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between Artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of newsmaking artists. A new series of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship series Art in the Twenty-First Century is available now on PBS. Catch all episodes of other series like New York Close Up and Extended Play and learn about the organization’s educational programs at Art21.org.

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