Paula Rego’s Wild Women

As in so much of her work, the phantasmagoric takes on something of the real, a nightmare brought to life, or the turmoil of a psyche revealed. Paula Rego’s well aware that women’s bodies are sites of trauma. She recounts her own birth, for example, as a horror story: her mother labored for three days, at the end of which she, the baby—“this carcass,” as Rego pointedly describes herself—was “dragged” out, ripping her mother’s bladder in the process. Rego’s work is dense with symbolism, but all in service of portraying the realities—as unpalatable and grotesque as they sometimes are—of the female body.

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