Facing the mirror: Jo Spence and Hannah Wile

Jesús Martínez Oliva, Domingo Pujante González


Cancer has long been a taboo, an illness surrounded by secrecy, socially silenced and consequently excluded from visual and artistic representation. This article aims to highlight the pioneering role played by two women artists: Hannah Wilke and Jo Spence. In the eighties Wilke and Spence broke away from the fear and shame of cancer to record the disease visually, making it part of their work experience, lived through in the first person. These autopathographic portraits, encompassing different strategies that range from phototherapy to the task of deconstructing stereotypes and taboos or pursuing critical militancy, helped these authors to face this disease personally, and try to unravel the metaphors and stigmas surrounding it socially and culturally. 


cancer; critical deconstruction; expression of the female gender; growing visibility; self portrait; phototherapy; Hannah Wilke; Jo Spence; Marie Mandy

Full Text: PDF (Català) PDF (Español) PDF

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7203/metode.77.2477


Dennett, T. et al., 2005. Jo Spence. Más allá de la imagen perfecta. Fotografía, subjetividad, antagonismo. Macba. Barcelona. Hannah Wilke Collection & Archive.

Le Breton, D., 1999. Antropología del dolor. Seix Barral. Barcelona.

Sander, G., 1988. Disease and Representation; Images of Illness from Madness to AIDS. Cornell University Press. Ithaca.

Sontag, S., 1996. La enfermedad y sus metáforas. El sida y sus metáforas. Taurus. Madrid.

Sontag, S., 2007. Bajo el signo de Saturno. Debolsillo Ediciones. Madrid.

Spence, J., 1995. Cultural Sniping: The Art of Transgression. Routledge. London.

Wilke, H., 1995. Intra-Venus. Ronald Feldman Fine Arts. New York.

Wilke, H., (1940-1993), 2006. Hannah Wilke: Exchange Values. Artium. Vitoria.


  • There are currently no refbacks.