In the 1970s, upon becoming active in the feminist movement, Nancy Spero began a sustained exploration of the place of women in history, which culminated with Notes in Time. She considered this work to be celebratory—about the “liberation of women’s spirits, minds, and bod[ies].” To make it, she combined images and text in a procession, creating a friezelike narrative that reflects the fragmented nature of historical records. Dense with references, Notes in Time presents a feminist view of human history at a monumental scale.
The work unfolds across twenty-four panels, which Spero altered using drawing, printing, and collage. Archetypal figures are interspersed among quotes from a range of sources, including fifteenth-century theological texts on women, twentieth-century writings on female sexuality, and modernist poetry. “I decided the figures were hieroglyphs,” Spero explained. “I used text along with image, as extensions of each other, at times in opposition, but always in relation to each other, even if contradictory.