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Supernatural America

The Paranormal in American Art

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 in 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. This stunning catalog, accompanying the first major exhibition to assess the spectral in American art, 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.

​Featuring artists from James McNeill Whistler and Kerry James Marshall to artist/mediums who made images with spirits during séances, this catalog covers more than two hundred years of the supernatural in American art. Here we find works that explore haunting, UFO sightings, and a broad range of experiential responses to other worldly contact.

320 pages | 200 color plates | 9-1/4 x 11 | © 2021

Art: American Art, Art--General Studies

Reviews

"The first major exhibition to examine the relationship between American artists and the supernatural in all its forms."

Fortean Times

 “Supernatural America paints a picture of the paranormal in all its historic significance . . . . In addition to presenting art historical analyses of works in the exhibition, the catalog gives the reader a bare bones history of the paranormal in American culture, ranging from the origins of the Ouija Board and Spiritualism to psychic photography and witchcraft.”

ARLIS / NA

"Numerous artists have been inspired by ghosts and the paranormal over the centuries but rarely have these ghostly works been examined in a scholarly fashion. Robert Cozzolino, a curator at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, brings together more than 150 works in an ambitious touring show covering more than two centuries of art linked to the supernatural."

Art Newspaper

"The first major museum exhibition to take a comprehensive look at the relationship between American artists and the unseen forces that lurk in our cultural history."

Art and Object

"[Supernatural America's] thoroughly researched and illustrated essays by scholars and artists (including John Jota Leaños and Renée Stout) alternate with accounts by practitioners, including an astrologer and a witch; all of the contributions are treated seriously and respectfully. Cozzolino aims to offer new ways of seeing, and new entry points for comprehending how artists have given physical form to intangible visitations or experiences (spanning the realms of UFOs, séances, and spirits of Indigenous or enslaved peoples). . . . VERDICT Whether or not readers believe in the supernatural, they’ll be impressed by the erudition of these texts and the wide range of beautifully presented artworks."

Nancy J. Mactague | Library Journal

"Extensive, well-researched catalogue that makes [its] case even to those of us unable or unwilling to travel in the time of Covid. . . well worth engaging with."
 

ArtNet News

"What particularly makes the text interesting and enjoyable is the approach that Cozzolino took with curation. . . .I recommend this book for those who are interested in the most striking of these, the unspeakable. Supernatural America is a concise and well-curated collection of images that, at their core, are tied together by the way in which they document the unspeakable. What is unspeakable changes depending on the artists and their lived experience, but the haunted images within the text clearly demonstrate the way artists wrestle with how to render the invisible visible, the unspeakable spoken."

Journal of Folklore Research

"This exhibition catalogue covers more than 200 years of visualisations of paranormal phenomena and otherworldly contact,
demonstrating a search for healing from the country’s violent past by embracing the uncanny."

The Bookseller

 "Supernatural America features works based upon personal, firsthand experiences by artists for whom the supernatural is woven into their worldviews. The focus is respect, dignity, sincerity, and belief in an exploration and dialogue of cultural and historic identity, both deeply intimate and vast through the manifestations that exist alongside us, if we are willing to look in earnest. "

Twin Cities Geek

"Robert Cozzolino...breaks new ground in presenting the paranormal as a historical subject of wide-ranging importance..."

Susan L. Aberth | Art Forum

Table of Contents

Director’s Foreword / Katherine C. Luber

INTRODUCTION: AMERICA IS HAUNTED / Robert Cozzolino
DESTINIES MANIFEST / John Jota Leaños
Hauntology / María del Pilar Blanco
UNCANNY SPACES / Sarah Burns
Phantasmagoria / Wendy Bellion
“THINGS NOT TANGIBLE”: PORTRAITS, SITTERS, AND THE SUPERNATURAL / Rachael Z. DeLue
Ghosts in the Machines / Brandon Hodge
HOW TO PAINT A GHOST AROUND 1900 / Adam M. Thomas
THESE UNSEEN BEINGS / Robert Cozzolino
Dust / Tony Oursler
Magic’s Deconstruction of Art, Science, and Religion / George P. Hansen
WILSON BENTLEY’S ARMY OF SOULS / Alexander Nemerov
Bringing the Invisible to Light: Aura and Psychic Photography / Michelle Donnelly
BLACK BLACK MAGIC / Bridget R. Cooks
The Rootworker’s Worktable / Renée Stout
Contemporary Witch Culture / Lacey Prpić Hedtke
GODDESS, BODY, AND EARTH: FEMINIST SPIRITS IN THE 1970S / Rachel Middleman
Popular Culture and the Paranormal/Supernatural / Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock

Plates
Selected Bibliography
Appendix: Octopus Series
Exhibition Checklist
Contributors
Curator’s Acknowledgments
Lenders to the Exhibition
Photography Credits

Awards

College Art Association: Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Award
Won

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