Born into a solidly middle-class family in Turin, Olga Carolina Rama – better known as Carol Rama – taught herself to draw, and in the late 1930s and early 1940s began making watercolours that served as a tool for processing the many traumas of her life. Her father’s suicide in 1942, the political tensions and economic crisis leading up to the war, the bombings, evacuation, and her mother’s committal to a psychiatric hospital were all transformed into powerful visions painted in a charged, anarchic style, where the female body becomes the epicentre of deep mental and physical tensions. In Nonna Carolina (1936) she portrays the title character with a pained expression and a neck full of leeches, while in Appassionata (1941) she depicts the identity crisis of the mental patients that her mother lived among. Although most of these women seem disoriented and are clearly disabled, Rama shows their bodies gripped by a sexual desire too overwhelming to be controlled, even when they are in restraints. Completely naked – except for high-heeled shoes – they are explicitly engaged in self-pleasure or in coupling with other patients, as lush vegetation blooms from their hair. With their brazen yet naive shamelessness, these women are the heroines of Rama’s universe.