The New Brag

In her poem The Language of the Brag, Sharon Olds lays down her brag of her fullest self “pushing the new person out.” One person making another. That’s what we do, pregnant or not. Olds claims her brag for this heroic, but mostly invisible, act that women perform. I began looking for other brag moments that may be overlooked and I found them in the digital self-portraits ("selfies") of the people who inspired The New Brag series of paintings. As with Olds, I am reclaiming the word “brag” and it’s definition of being “full of oneself” as a positive and necessary stance for myself and all marginalized people in a deeply misogynist, racist, homophobic, xenophobic, and patriarchal world.

Painting myself and the other subjects in The New Brag series is a way of being with each one of us for that time as a particular kind of witness. There is touch involved. It’s wet. I stay for hours. And when I’m done, each one is here with me and with each other. Gathered. All looking directly. Seeing me, seeing each other. A community of witnesses. As I constitute these beings in paintings on canvas, I am constituted as a painter.

In my written thesis and in this body of work, I am exploring visibility and co-constitution as redemptive, political acts.

Nancy Murphy Spicer


NEW Brag Book cover SMALL final.jpg

The New Brag Paintings
32-page book including all paintings in the series
along with text by the artist and the subjects of the paintings



The New Brag: Erasure and Co-Constitution of Self
Masters Thesis by Nancy Murphy Spicer
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Low-Residency MFA Program
Director, Gregg Bordowitz

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