Focus Series

Nancy Spero

(American b. 1926) 

Ballade von der Judenhure

Marie Sanders, 1991

A lifelong activist and pioneer of feminist art, Nancy Spero devoted her career to unapologetically crafting commentaries on injustices against women and entrenched male dominance in society. Ballade von der Judenhure Marie Sanders exposes brutality against women, which was groundlessly justified by antisemitism throughout Europe. Synthesizing her image with Bertolt Brecht’s poem, “Ballad of Marie Sanders, the Jew’s whore,” Spero details the merciless, public execution of a gentile woman charged with having sex with a Jew.

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Romare Bearden

(African-American b. 1911) 

Carolina Memories, 1975

Arguably the nation’s foremost collagist, Romare Beadern epitomizes the Harlem Renaissance and illustrates art’s intersection with the civil rights movement. Born in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1911, Bearden moved to Harlem in 1914 during the Great Migration. A renaissance-man, he held a plethora of positions from Social Services case worker, to semi-professional baseball player, to soldier on World War II’s European front. In the midst of the 1960s civil rights movement, Bearden assisted in the founding of Spiral, a collection of Harlem-based artists.

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Ben Shahn

(Lithuanian-American b. 1898) 

For the Sake of a Single Verse, 1968

After his family immigrated from what is now Lithuania in 1906, Ben Shahn (1898-1969) became an apprentice to a lithographer after elementary school and left high school early to pursue a career in lithography and photography, completing his degree by taking classes at night. Shahn was a member of the Social Realist movement, which focussed on portraying the socio-political situations of the working class and the factors behind these conditions.

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Julie Heffernan

(American b. 1956) 

Self-Portrait as Explosion, 1996

Artist Julie Heffernan’s style can be described as a contemporary mix of Rococo, Surrealism, and Baroque, with a dash of the seventeenth-century Dutch still-life Masters. The title of each canvas begins with the words Self-Portrait, which conveys that these scenes are portraits of a personal and internal world, not literal depictions of the artist herself.

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