The papers of painter, collage artist, and printmaker Nancy Spero measure 27.5 linear feet and 19.12 GB and are dated 1940s-2009. Biographical materials, correspondence, interviews, writings, subject files, personal business records, printed and digital material, and photographic materials provide an overview of her exhibitions, major projects, and personal life. Also documented is her interest and participation in political movements and social issues including anti-war, women's rights, animal rights, repressive regimes, and the treatment of political prisoners.
Scope and Contents:
The papers of painter, printmaker, and collage artist Nancy Spero measure 27.5 linear feet and 19.12 GB and are dated 1940s-2009. Biographical materials, correspondence, interviews,writings, subject files, personal business records, printed and digital material, and photographic materials provide an overview of her exhibitions, major projects, and personal life. Also documented is her interest and participation in political and social movements including anti-war, women's rights, animal rights, and raising awareness about repressive regimes, and the treatment of political prisoners.
Biographical materials include 26 audiovisual recordings about Nancy Spero and her work. Also found are biographical notes, resumes, and her passport. Correspondence concerns exhibitions, projects, travel, general news of family and friends, social events, and fundraising for political and social causes that Spero supported.
Interviews with Spero, conducted for a variety of purposes, include 7 audiovisual recordings, many transcripts, and published versions. Also, there are several joint interviews with Nancy Spero and Leon Golub. Spero's writings consist of notes, artist's statements, and articles. Also included are 7 audiovisual recordings of talks by Spero and her participation in panel discussions.
Subject files document many of Spero's personal and professional projects, relationships, and interests. Especially well documented is A.I.R. Gallery which includes 42 sound cassettes of talks presented in its "Current Issues and Events" series (1982-1984), gallery correspondence, exhibition documentation, and records of the A.I.R. Partnership. Some materials are in digital format.
Personal business records include many inventories and lists. Also documented are gifts, loans, sales, prices, reproduction permissions and fees. Printed material consists of a variety of items such as books, clippings, exhibition catalogs and announcements, periodicals, press releases, digital materials and reproductions. Many items mention Spero and/or include reproductions of her work. Also found with printed material are 22 commercially produced audiovisual recordings about various subjects.
Photographic materials include photographs, digital images, slides, negatives and color transparencies of artwork, exhibition installations, and people. Artwork is mainly by Spero and exhibition installations record some of her solo shows. Images of people include Nancy Spero, Leon Golub, unidentified friends and family members.
The collection is arranged in 9 series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1950-2009 (Boxes 1-2, FC 31; 1.5 linear feet, ER01-ER04; 9.58 GB)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1946-2009 (Boxes 2-4; 2 linear feet)
Series 3: Interviews, 1973-2007 (Boxes 4-5; 0.8 linear foot)
Series 4: Writings, 1950-2003 (Box 5; 0.8 linear foot)
Series 5: Subject Files, circa 1950-2009 (Boxes 6-18, 29, RD 30; 12.6 linear feet, ER05-ER15; 5.02 GB)
Series 6: Personal Business Records, circa 1976-2008 (Boxes 18-19; 1 linear foot)
Series 7: Printed Material, 1949-2009 (Boxes 19-25; 6.1 linear feet, ER16-ER17; 4.36 GB)
Series 8: Photographic Material, 1940s-2009 (Boxes 25-26, 29; 1.2 linear feet, ER18-ER19; 0.151 GB)
Series 9: Video Recordings, 1970s-1990s (Boxes 26-28; 1 linear foot)
Biographical / Historical:
Nancy Spero (1926-2009) was a figurative painter, printmaker, and collage artist in New York City whose multi-media work often incorporated text. She was an ardent feminist and activist whose political and social concerns were expressed in her art.
Born in Cleveland, Nancy Spero lived in Chicago from the time she was a very young child until completing her studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (BFA 1949) where she met her future husband, painter Leon Golub (1922-2004). She studied briefly in Paris and lived in New York City, returning to Chicago after her marriage in 1951. The couple and their two sons lived in Italy from 1956 to 1957. In 1959, after a few years in New York, the family moved to Paris where Spero developed an interest in existentialism and produced a series of black paintings. When Spero and Golub returned to New York in 1964, their family consisted of three sons.
Nancy Spero was strongly affected by the war in Vietnam and the many social changes of the period. She became a social activist and feminist, joined various organizations, and participated in a variety of demonstrations. Work such as the War series began to include political and sexual imagery. Spero was among the founding members of the women's cooperative A.I.R. Gallery established in 1972. In 1974 she decided to make women in mythology, history, art, and literature the exclusive subject of her work. Included in this vein are major series and installations, among them Torture of Women, Notes in Time on Women, The First Language, and her 66th Street/Lincoln Center subway station mosaic mural Artemis, Acrobats, Divas and Dancers.
Spero exhibited in the 1950 Salon des Independents and her first solo exhibition (in tandem with Leon Golub) was held at Indiana University in 1958. Thereafter, she showed sporadically until nearly 30 years later when her career flourished and she enjoyed international stature. Beginning in 1986, each year brought multiple solo exhibitions at galleries and museums in the United States and internationally. In addition, she continued to participate in group shows such as "Documenta" and the Venice Biennale. Her work is included in the permanent collections of museums throughout the world.
Awards and honors included the Skowhegan Medal for Works on Paper (1995), Hiroshima Art Prize shared with Leon Golub (1996), The Women's Caucus for Art award for Outstanding Achievement in Visual Arts (2003), and The Women's Caucus for Art Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement (2005). Spero was awarded honorary Doctorates of Fine Arts by The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1991) and Williams College (2001), and was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2006).
After several years of declining health, Nancy Spero died from heart failure in New York City, October 18, 2009.
Also among the holdings of the Archives of American Art an interview of Nancy Spero conducted 2008 Februay 6-July 24, by Judith Olch Richards, and the papers of Spero's husband, Leon Golub.
Gift of Nancy Spero in 1979. The majority of the collection was donated by her sons, Stephen Golub, Philip Golub, and Paul Golub in 2013.
Use of original material requires an appointment. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
An interview of Victoria Barr conducted 1977 January 11-February 18, by Paul Cummings, for the Archives of American Art.
Barr recalls how she became very interested in theater set and lighting design; the thrill of learning about Greek history and myths and her painting being influenced by dance; studying graphic design and advertising at Parsons School of Design and Cy Sillman as a teacher; at Yale, Neil Welliver influencing her to become a painter; her first trip to Europe with her parents at the age of 14 and spending time with Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, and Henri Matisse; fellow Yale students Victor Moscoso, Eva Hesse, Sylvia Mangold, Bob Mangold, and Louise Nevelson; moving to Aspen, Colorado in 1961 and how her brief experience with marijuana influenced her painting more than anything previously; the family friendship with Philip Johnson and building the Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut; spending time with Johnson, Meis van der Rohe and Phyllis Lambert during the construction of the Seagram Building in Montreal, Canada; Vincent Scully and Bill McDonald as teachers at Yale; visiting Peggy Guggenheim in Venice; going to Budapest, Hungary 1963, right after the Cuban Missile Crisis, to make a film; being awarded the Fulbright to go to France in 1964; her trip to Greece on scholarship and how at home she felt; that it is no longer relevant to paint from nature; meeting Lillian Lynn and becoming great friends; moving back to New York in 1966 and working for the Museum of Natural History in the exhibits department; her work becoming less painterly, more abstract; beginning her teaching career at Barnard College in 1967; the upheaval of student riots at Columbia University and her involvement in the Peace Movement; moving to stain painting; vacationing in Santa Fe, New Mexico and the hippie culture there; how her trip to India in 1971 influenced her to use more color and primitive motifs in her work; embracing the Women's Liberation Movement; summers in Long Island and her trip to Bali. Barr also recalls Gwen Davies, John McAndrew, Alexander Calder, Chick Austin, Sydney Friedberg, Leo Steinberg, Peggy Guggenheim, Diana Cowan, Bob Chamberlain, Joey Cabell, Peter Blum, Marino Marini, Ben Shahn, Mark Rothko, Jack Tworkov, Fritz Bultman, Alice Katz, Jim Brooks, Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Mark Rauschenberg, Jim Rosenquist, Claes Oldenburg, Bernard Berenson, Millard Meiss, Sydney Freedburg, Aline Saarinen, John Johansen, Jim Sobey, Nancy Graves, Richard Serra, Robert Fiore, Philip Glass, Peter Worshall, Michael Helminski, Marcia Tucker, Elke Solomon, Joan Snyder, Nancy Azara, Jane Kaufman, Pat Steir, Susan Hall, and John Giorno.
Biographical / Historical:
Victoria Barr (1937- ) is a set designer and painter from New York, New York.
Originally recorded on 6 sound tape reels. Reformatted in 2010 as 12 digital wav files. Duration is 10 hr., 6 min.
Sound quality is poor.
These interviews are part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and others.
This transcript is open for research. Access to the entire recording is restricted. Contact Reference Services for more information.
3.83 Cubic feet (8 binders containing contact sheets, slides, and prints; 7 boxes (8.5"x10.75"x2.5") of 35 mm negatives; 2 binders of 35 mm and 120 format negatives; and 1 box of 11 oversize prints.)
New York (N.Y.)
Saint Simons Island (Ga. : Island)
The Diana Davies photographs consist of images taken by Diana Davies at various stages of her career. Locations include the Festival of American Folklife, the Newport Folk Festival, the Philadelphia Folk Festival, the Poor People's Campaign, various peace and protest marches and outdoor performances, New York City, and the Georgia Sea Islands. The collection includes contact sheets, negatives, photographic prints, and slides.
Original photographs, negatives, and color slides taken by Diana Davies. Materials date from 1963-2009. Bulk dates: Newport Folk Festival, 1963-1969, 1987, 1992; Philadelphia Folk Festival, 1967-1968, 1987.
Scope and Contents:
The Diana Davies photographs, 1963-2009, consist of black and white negatives, contact sheets and prints, as well as color slides and negatives. The bulk of materials depict major festivals and protest movements (including the Poor People's March of 1968) documented by Diana Davies (located in Series 1: Newport Folk Festival, Series 2: Philadelphia Folk Festival, Series 6: Festival of American Folklife, and Series 11: Social Justice). Also well-represented are non-festival performances (in locations such as clubs, concert halls, and homes), recording sessions, and other music-related images, mainly of notable figures in the American folk music revival (located in Series 3: Broadside Magazine, Series 4: Sing Out! Magazine Concerts, Series 5: Miscellaneous Concerts and People, Series 7: Recording Sessions, Series 8: Instruction Book Shots, and Series 9: Jazz, Blues, and Salsa Musicians). Series 10: Georgia Sea Islands consists of photographs depicting the culture, environment, and daily life of these coastal islands in 1966. Series 12: New York City Scenes contains photographs taken on the street depicting everyday life in NYC in the 1960s and 1970s. The collection also contains related papers in Series 13: Miscellaneous Papers and Correspondence.
Each item in the Diana Davies Photographs has been assigned an accession number, and like materials have been put together such as the Newport Folk Festival photographs, in a chronological sequence as much as possible. Materials in the three more recent donation batches (1998, 2004, and 2006) were numbered and integrated into the collection. In some series, the accession numbers are in numerical order, and in others, the numbers are random because like items with different number sequences were pulled together in a series for subject coherence. The best way to find occurrences of a particular subject is to use the ctrl+F function. Please consult the archivists if you have any questions about the collection contents.
Contact sheets, slides, and prints arranged in 8 binders; negatives and oversize prints are stored separately.
Arranged in 14 series:
Series 1: Newport Folk Festival
Series 2: Philadelphia Folk Festival
Series 3: Broadside Magazine
Series 4: -- Sing Out! -- Magazine Concerts
Series 5: Miscellaneous Concerts and People
Series 6: Festival of American Folklife
Series 7: Recording Sessions
Series 8: Instruction Book Shots
Series 9: Jazz, Blues, and Salsa Musicians
Series 10: Georgia Sea Islands
Series 11: Social Justice
Series 12: New York City Scenes
Series 13: Miscellaneous Papers and Correspondence
Series 14: Oversize Materials
Diana Davies is a well-known photographer of folk performers and festivals. Davies photographed the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in its earlier years. Born in 1938, Davies grew up in Maine, the Catskills, New York City, and Boston. Her grandparents were local union organizers and Debs socialists; one grandfather was a gandy dancer with the railroad, and her grandmother was a textile worker in Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania. Davies finds that her family background was later expressed in her own activist efforts.
Davies left high school at 16, and worked sweeping out coffeehouses, which gave her the opportunity to listen to music while she worked. She became interested in theater and music. In Greenwich Village, she began doing some sound technician work, and then got interested in photography. She taught herself how to develop and print photographs in a darkroom, and began photographing in theaters, shooting from behind the scenes. Her theater photos are at Smith College in Northampton, where she presently lives. In the early 1960s, she began working with the editors of Broadside Magazine, Sis Cunningham and Gordon Friesen. She developed an interest in human rights work, which grew from her contact with Sis and Gordon, and also her own family background. She also worked as a photographer in a wide range of settings, including night clubs, weddings, and doing portrait photography. This led her to work for major national and international media including the New York Times, covering such events as the war in Biafra, and traveling to Mexico, Cuba, and Portugal on assignment.
Davies' folk photographs represent about one-quarter of her body of work; her other major photographic work includes the Civil Rights Movement, the Peace Movement, and theater. Davies began photographing at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964, which she covered for a number of years. She knew Ralph Rinzler, and found him a vibrant, alive person excited by all aspects of culture. He introduced her to Bessie Jones from the Georgia Sea Islands, and in 1966 she made a photographic journey to the islands. Her work from this trip is included in the collection. Davies has also been a musician. She became involved with the punk rock movement of the 1970s, and felt that there was a connection between the hard-hitting songs from the punk world and the songs being published in Broadside Magazine. In 1975, she became part of a folk/punk women's band in Boston, and later moved to Western Massachusetts. In addition to being a photographer and musician, Davies is also a writer. She wrote a play entitled "The Witch Papers" in 1980, which was produced in Boston and other locations. The play was a vehicle for her human rights activism, comparing the technology of inquisition with labor sweatshops. In 1998, her play "The War Machine" was produced in Amherst, Mass. She lives in Northampton, and enjoys and participates in street performance, which she describes as the "most essentially communicative stuff you can come up with."
All contact sheets from the collection are digitized and accessible through this finding aid. Series-level slideshows accessible through this finding aid represent a small sampling from the collection.
The Smithsonian Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections acquired portions of the Diana Davies Photograph Collection in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Ms. Davies photographed for the Festival of American Folklife. More materials came to the Archives circa 1989 or 1990. Archivist Stephanie Smith visited her in 1998 and 2004, and brought back additional materials which Ms. Davies wanted to donate to the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections. These two more recent donations of additional photographs (contact sheets, prints, and slides) consisted of documentation of the Newport Folk Festival, the Philadelphia Folk Festival, the Poor People's March on Washington, the Civil Rights Movement, the Georgia Sea Islands, and miscellaneous personalities of the American folk revival. In a letter dated 12 March 2002, Ms. Davies gave full discretion to the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage to grant permission for both internal and external use of her photographs, with the provison that her work be credited in any use.
Access by appointment only. Contact the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections at 202-633-7322 or email@example.com for additional information.
Permission for the duplication or publication of items in the Diana Davies Photograph Collection must be obtained from the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections.
Copyright restrictions apply. Please contact the archives staff for further information.