Penny Slinger - 20th Century & Contemporary Art: Online Auction, New York New York Thursday, December 7, 2023 | Phillips
  • Penny Slinger’s art centers around the subversion of Surrealist aesthetics through a variety of mediums to address themes of feminism, gender roles, spirituality and sexuality. Embracing collage, photography, film and performance, Slinger’s art career began in the 1960s and continues today. 


    The present lot, Our Lady of the Owls from the series An Exorcism, exemplifies Slinger’s propensity for socially biting collages. The series stems from an unsuccessful film project in which Slinger and filmmaker Peter Whitehead attempted to explore the nature of the human subconscious at a Jacobean Stately Home. Although the film ultimately did not come to fruition, Slinger took several photographs of the empty rooms and grounds that would become the foundations of her collages. 


    In the present lot, a figure wearing an owl headdress stands in the center of an empty room flanked by bay windows and extravagant molding. The left side of the room is completely covered by a cutout of choppy ocean waters, suggesting that the right side will also be flooded shortly. The sense of foreboding is further reinforced by the massive figures peering through the windows. Two women and another owl seem to scrutinize the central figure and the space she occupies.


    The voyeuristic nature of the composition embodies Slinger’s intent to illustrate the feminine psyche through the unconscious. Using images of the female nude as well as nature imagery, the artist tries “to show something about a woman is inside, and therefore not showing just a surface but showing these other elements in relation to it to jog us into the subconscious.”i Slinger challenges viewers with phantasmagorical juxtapositions of the female form, encouraging them to reconsider societal preconceptions of gender roles. 


    Inspired by Surrealism but disappointed in its restrictive gender roles, in which women were solely muses to inspire creation among men, Slinger “wanted to employ its tools and methods to create a language for the feminine psyche to express itself.”ii Her destabilization of the Surrealist visual language revolved around a celebration of the female body. While the female nude was featured in many Surrealist works, the function was always that of a visual trope, signifying female beauty as a catalyst for male creativity. Slinger aimed to reclaim the female body, portraying it through a feminist lens and for the female gaze rather than the oversexualized depictions wholly intended to appease the male gaze.


    Penny Slinger, Enter Athena, 1970-77. Artwork: © 2023 Penny Slinger / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York


    Much like Martha Rosler, Slinger utilizes the disruptive nature of collage as a medium to convey salient social commentary. By removing images from their surroundings and placing them in her meticulously crafted pictorial settings, Slinger can project her own narratives and themes upon them through the compositional relationship between elements: “collage allows a unique opportunity to bring together elements of the real world but to put them together in a different relationship and therefore shake that very foundation of perception.”iii



    Please find more about Penny Slinger in this article from our editorial team.



    i Penny Slinger, quoted in Dr. Patricia Allmar, “Penny Slinger: Collage is a naughty medium,” National Galleries, August 6, 2019, online.

    ii Penny Slinger, quoted in Ally Faughnan, “How artist Penny Slinger used erotica & pleasure to reclaim the female body,” Dazed, June 28, 2019, online.

    iii Allmar

    • Provenance

      Broadway 1602, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2017

    • Exhibited

      New York, Broadway 1602, Penny Slinger: An Exorcism Revisited, September 11–November 30, 2012
      London, Sadie Coles, Room, January 13–February 18, 2017

    • Literature

      Penny Slinger and Elizabeth Swann, eds., enter goddess, Los Angeles, 2015, n.p. (illustrated)
      Robert Chilcott, "The Dark Defines the Light," f22, June 2022, p. 10 (illustrated)


Our Lady of the Owls from the series An Exorcism

photo collage
12 1/2 x 18 7/8 in. (31.8 x 47.9 cm)
Executed in 1970–1977.

Full Cataloguing

$15,000 - 20,000 

Contact Specialist

Katerina Blackwood
Associate Specialist, Head of Online Sales, New York
20th Century & Contemporary Art
+1 212 940 1248

20th Century & Contemporary Art: Online Auction, New York

7 - 14 December 2023