Art historian, Susan Aberth and artist and critic, Ann McCoy will discuss why women artists whose work deals with Spiritualism and esoteric content is now coming into focus and why contemporary women artists still face the same kind of devaluation of their work that deals with the spiritual. We’ll close with a poetry reading from Rodrigo Toscano.
In this talk
As the recent Hilma af Klint exhibition at the Guggenheim museum amply demonstrated by breaking all previous attendance records, the public is interested in the spiritual aspects of modern art. Additionally, the growing spate of shows featuring women artists whose work deals with esoteric content, such as Georgiana Houghton, Emma Kunst, Leonora Carrington, Agnes Pelton, Remedios Varo, Niki de Saint Phalle, and many others, indicates that a serious sea change has taken place. Mapping their personal explorations of Spiritualism, dream realms and visionary experiences, these women were interested in a broad range of both Eastern and Western spiritual traditions, the occult, and also the natural world. Rather than embracing male dominated movements, from which they were often excluded, they found their own artistic paths. Due to this fact, and the male dominated art world’s dismissal of the spiritual as feminine, the work of these artists has been long overlooked. This conversation will focus on why is their work now coming into focus and garnering interest and also, why do contemporary women artists still face the same kind of devaluation of their work that deals with the spiritual.
Susan L. Aberth is the Edith C. Blum Professor of the Art History and Visual Culture Program at Bard College. She received her M.A. from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, and her Ph.D. from the Graduate Center, City University of New York.
In addition to her 2004 book Leonora Carrington: Surrealism, Alchemy and Art (Lund Humphries), forthcoming is Leonora Carrington: The Tarot (Fulgur Press, 2020) co-authored with Mexican curator Tere Arcq. She has contributed to Surrealism and Magic, Guggenheim Venice (2021); Seeking the Marvelous: Ithell Colquhoun, British Women and Surrealism (Fulgur Press, 2021), Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist (Phoenix Art Museum, 2019), Surrealism, Occultism and Politics: In Search of the Marvelous (Routledge Press, 2018), Leonora Carrington: Cuentos Magicos (Museo de Arte Moderno & INBA, Mexico City, 2018), Unpacking: The Marciano Collection (Delmonico Books, Prestel, 2017), and Leonora Carrington and the International Avant-Garde (Manchester University Press, 2017), as well as to Abraxas: International Journal of Esoteric Studies, Black Mirror, and Journal of Surrealism of the Americas.
The Rail has a tradition of ending our conversations with a poem, and we’re fortunate to have Rodrigo Toscano reading.