Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: Feminist Art Base: Nancy Worthington

Nancy Worthington

Nancy Worthington's artwork is in the permanent collection of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. in the Arts and Embassies Program of the U.S. Department of State, and she represented the United States in the 18th International Biennial in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In addition to gallery, museum and university exhibits in the United States, Worthington has exhibited extensively in Europe, winning the gold medal for the International Women's Biennial in Stockholm, Sweden, exhibiting at the Grand Palais in Paris, Oslo, Norway, Venice and in Rome.

Worthington's activist vision is many times prescient and often challenges the social and political status quo – a risky endeavor for an artist at any time but especially in the current atmosphere of terrorism, fear and uncertainty. That is the context in which her ‘George Dubya' series’ courageously created from 2000-2004 found itself the focal point in an international censorship episode. Her work drew national and international attention in February 2003, just before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, when "The Crossing" was censored from the Alliance Fran├žaise in San Francisco. The Sunday New York Times, Le Monde (Paris) and World of Art Magazine carried the story.

Worthington is a forerunner in the creation of political/social art utilizing objects derived from cast off consumerism. Worthington’s art embraces viewer participation – emphasizing that through physical involvement, intellectual and emotional insights are invoked. A vital part of this art is the exposure she gives to the ambiguities, inconsistencies and polarities of the human condition; of social and psychological entrapment. Reasserting her deep commitment to principles of freedom in aesthetic (and political) expression, Ms. Worthington states: “My view is that art can challenge the mind; art can inspire the senses; art can uplift the spirit; and art is, in fact, a record and reflection of civilization(s). All art is a unique visualization coming from a specific mind and heart. I feel a sense of duty to make social observations. My art is something that I must do in order to live in harmony with the world as I perceive it.”

Nancy Worthington was born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1947. She received her B.A. Fine Arts from James Madison University in 1969 and her M.F.A. in Sculpture at Pennsylvania State University in 1972. In l973 she moved to Northern California, where she currently resides at Domaine Joyeux with her life partner, Dr. Judith Fein.
Beginning in the 1970's I created sculptures and drawings that were feminist in nature. "The Bell Jar" sculpture (1972) confronts the issue of unwanted motherhood--a grotesque baby doll lies in a bell jar (reference to Sylvia Plath) with a tube for an umbilical cord that looks like a vacuum suction line). I began "Cryptographic Self-Boxes" in 1973 moving to California from the East Coast. I created 14 poems that dealt with aspects of my personal journey, from childhood through adolescence--growing up female in a patriarchal society. I then created drawings as a visual counterpoint to the poems and incorporated both into 14 mixed-media constructions, or self-boxes. "Reich's Bullyseye", (1976) depicts the role of rape on both women and men in our society. I am pleased that "Reich's Bullseye" is in the permanent collection of the National Museum of Women in the Arts. "The Veil of Isis" (1978) represents my expression of the birth, death and rebirth of woman in our culture. The sculpture represents a casket/cradle, incorporating drawings and three-dimensional objects suggesting images of the metamorphosis of rebirth of the female.

The following 1978 interview reflects my thoughts at the time. "I see my work continuing as a reflection of the present realities in our society with their tragic and sometimes comic elements. I've always been fascinated with objects and how these can be transformed. Utilitarian objects and children's toys are directly related to the social, political and emotional states of the society. I take objects out of context, combine, alter and transform them into statements about the human condition so that I am confronting people with real things in a newly assembled form. …I juxtapose the real with the imaginary, the subject with the object, and exterior with interior realities. So my objects become transformed--I take them out of context and they become more real than ever before imagined, concrete and yet illusion."

I have continued to create social commentary artwork throughout my career. Against the more destructive side of civilization, the arts act as checks and balances. It is important for me to create these art pieces to express my social/political perspective about society, to interpret what it meant to me and to communicate in a way that touches others on an intellectual, emotional and spiritual level. I have always felt a duty to incorporate social commentary content within the framework of my art.

View Nancy Worthington's CV (PDF)

Come Into My ParlorWith All Due Respect To Marilyn MonroeFemalinesReich"The Crossing" (detail)Cryptographic Self-Boxes (series of 14)The Veil of Isis

Sebastopol, CA

PO Box 2558
Sebastopol, CA

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