Supernatural America: The Paranormal in American Art

February 18, 2021

Agatha Wojciechowsky

Agatha Wojciechowsky, American (born Germany), 1896-1986, untitled, 1963, watercolor on paper, 11 ¾ x 8 7/8 in. Courtesy the artist’s estate and Day Art Consulting LLC

Robert Cozzolino, Patrick and Aimee Butler Curator of Paintings at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, will present on Zoom about his groundbreaking exhibition Supernatural America that opens in 2021.​ Featuring artists from James McNeil Whistler and Kerry James Marshall to artists/mediums who made images with spirits during séances, this exhibition covers more than two hundred years of the supernatural in American art.

About Supernatural America:

America is haunted. Ghosts from its violent history—the genocide of Indigenous Peoples, slavery, the threat of nuclear annihilation, and traumatic wars—are an inescapable and unsettled part of the nation’s heritage. Not merely the realm of metaphor but present and tangible, urgently calling for contact, these otherworldly visitors have been central to our national identity. Through times of mourning and trauma, artists have been integral to visualizing ghosts, whether national or personal, and in doing so have embraced the uncanny and the inexplicable. Supernatural America is the first major exhibition to assess the spectral in American art and explores the numerous ways American artists have made sense of their own experiences of the paranormal and the supernatural, developing a rich visual culture of the intangible.

This event is organized in connection with deCordova’s exhibition Visionary New England.

About Visionary New England and Transcendental Modernism (October 8, 2020-March 14, 2021)

Visionary, mystical, and utopian practices are crucial to New England’s culture, history, and character. From the experimental agrarian communities founded in the 1840s, such as Brook Farm and Fruitlands, to the intersections of spiritualism and experimental psychology at the turn of the 20th century, New England has long developed alternative ways of nurturing community, personal growth, and societal reform. Related artists and writers frequently united their intimate connection to nature with a search for access to alternate dimensions or higher powers. Visionary New England features artwork by contemporary artists who are engaged with these themes. Transcendental Modernism focuses more specifically on artistic developments in Massachusetts from the 1940s-’90s. Drawing largely on artists in deCordova’s permanent collection, the exhibition spotlights Jewish émigré artists central to Boston Expressionism; AfriCOBRA and Afrofuturist artists in Roxbury; mysticism in Cape Cod artist communities; and utopian collaborations between artists and engineers at MIT.

Major funding for the exhibition is provided by the Luce Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts.