Fuck You Angels. Art Works as Allies in Care

Rachel Warriner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


What might it mean to make work ‘thinking as a mother’? This was how American artist Nancy Spero (1926-2009) described a series of angry gouache sketches which were painted while her children slept at night. Made in 1960 when the child-centred permissive parenting movement was at its height, these scratchy, aggressive works with nightmare figures are an obscure rendering of motherhood, picturing not domestic labour, but a murky, sometimes frightening world. Exploring the idea of ‘thinking as a mother’, my article considers how the experience of caring for children might inflect how work is both made and viewed. Drawing on the work of Lisa Baraitser, I argue that through the artwork’s picturing of the suppressed psychic turbulence of mothering, artist and viewer are brought together, facilitating a kind of imaginative community that supports both. Using Spero’s works on paper, with their strange, aggressive figures and scumbled, scratchy backgrounds as a case study for thinking through how maternal experience is communicated through art objects, this article considers how artworks can act as allies in negotiating the complex emotional terrain of motherhood.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-466
Number of pages39
JournalOxford Art Journal
Issue number3
Early online date5 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2023
Externally publishedYes

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