Tagliatrice di Teste / Heads’ Cutter, 1969

Clemen Parrocchetti, Tagliatrice di Teste / Heads’ Cutter, 1969; Household paint and acrylic on canvas in artist’s frame; 101 × 151 cm

Largely unseen, Clemen Parrocchetti’s (1923-2016) paintings from 1969 captured the struggle for liberation and self-definition through various disassembled and distorted figures. Bearing titles anticipatory of feminist critique, these paintings include facial features like mouths and eyes – motifs she continued to use well into the 1970s as a synecdoche for the female body. Lips in particular appear often, becoming a symbol for the unleashing of women’s protest in the face of oppression.

Within each painting, different symbols are employed to reference autobiographical elements that amass into a painting expressing larger frustrations felt about the subjugation of women. One painting, a large blue bow symbolizes the sexism experienced in her own family through the special treatment allotted to her brother. On another, red crosses allude to the circumstance in which she met her husband during WWII as well as the general care expected of women at the time.

After 1969, Clemen Parrocchetti began distancing herself from the medium of painting – making these works part of an important transitional phase in the artist’s practice. In 1973, after a phase of intense elaboration and pictorial production, Parrocchetti drew up a short manifesto, Promemoria per un oggetto di cultura femminile (Reminder for an Object of Feminine Culture), and shifted her art practice into a sculptural direction using different domestic materials that more closely corresponded to feminist ideology. This was for her a very political act, one moving away from the male-dominated field of painting and closer to artisanship like embroidery and sewing.

Photos by Marjorie Brunet Plaza