Nancy Grossman ( American, 1940 )
Nancy Grossman is best known for her leather-wrapped sculptures of heads, which the artist made from the late 1960s to the 1980s. While Grossman regularly refers to the heads as self-portraits, they are not made to resemble the artist herself. The heads speak to the malice and subservience of both psychology and worldly conflict, and while the works are often rendered blind and mute, they still allude to the role of the silent witness amid cruelty and disorder. The creation of the head sculptures was partly inspired by the liberation movements of the late 1960s and the Vietnam War, responding to the violence and social upheaval of the era. Today, Grossman’s heads continue to address the anxiety and turmoil that weigh upon the individual and contemporary society. Each head is carved from a block of wood and overlaid with sections of found leather—often sourced from articles of clothing or even boxing gloves—that are sewn, nailed, or zippered together. The life-size sculptures are startling for what they obscure as much as for what they expose.