Skip to main content

Museums and the Web

An annual conference exploring the social, cultural, design, technological, economic, and organizational issues of culture, science and heritage on-line.

Nancy Grossman: Tough Life Diary video

People's Choice:
1 vote




The Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery


Vickie Riley/In-house

Small Museum

Small Museum


Audio | Visual | Podcast









Nearly 50 years after her first solo exhibition in New York City Nancy Grossman’s work is as powerful and relevant today as it was when it was first created. The video Nancy Grossman: Tough Life Diary was created to bring the artist’s voice directly to the viewer, opening up new ways of understanding a body of complex and sometimes difficult work. It complements the exhibition of the same name currently on view at the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, an interdisciplinary museum focusing largely on contemporary art.

 The 14 minute video weaves together archival film footage of the artist in her studio at age 25, an interview from 1994, the artist’s own family photos as well as a present-day interview with the artist at her home in NYC, illustrating complexities in Grossman’s work that are often overlooked in simplified and sensationalistic interpretations of her art. Nancy Grossman in her studio as a young artistNancy Grossman: Tough Life Diary: Nancy Grossman in her studio as a young artist








In the video, Grossman takes the viewer down the path of challenges and influences that she navigated, particularly in the 60s and 70s, to create a powerful body of work that combines exquisite craftsmanship with a long-standing exploration of the nature of violence and power. 

 Tough Life DiaryNancy Grossman: Tough Life Diary

 wall assemblage and paintingNancy Grossman: Tough Life Diary: wall assemblage and painting













Judicious use of a split screen showing side-by-side interviews of Grossman from the 90s and today reveals the consistency in her thoughts about her work. Additional use of the split screen to highlight her drawings, collage paintings and the life-size leather covered heads that she is best known for, gives the viewer access to incredible craftsmanship visible in detailed views while being able to appreciate full views of the work at the same time.


 The artist explains the meaning behind the leather heads, not "....bondage from the outside" but the real life of the mind and headNancy Grossman: Tough Life Diary: The artist explains the meaning behind the leather heads, not "....bondage from the outside" but the real life of the mind and head

The responses, whether from the museum’s national advisory council, college students or gallery staff, have been that viewing the video offers a much deeper understanding of the work. For those who already had an appreciation for the work on its own, viewing the video adds a layer of context that opens up meaning and for those who initially found the work difficult or disturbing they have found a connection with the artist’s authenticity and vulnerability that opens up their willingness to rethink their initial reaction.

Through Grossman’s words, this video expands the possible readings of her work, confirming its value as a body of work for interdisciplinary exploration that is at the root of the Tang Museum’s mission. 

Created by the Tang's Digital Resources Content Producer, Vickie Riley, this mobile ready video can be accessed from the gallery via QR code as well as on the Tang Museum's website, ArtBabble and the Tang Museum's Vimeo channel. 

Nominated By