Minneapolis Institute of Art to Present First Major Museum Exhibition Examining the Relationship Between American Artists and the Supernatural

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MINNEAPOLIS—January 18, 2022—The Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) will present the first major museum exhibition to broadly examine the relationship between artists in the United States and the supernatural. Opening February 19, “Supernatural America: The Paranormal in American Art” comprises more than 150 works from the early 1800s through the present. The exhibition will feature the work of internationally recognized artists such as Reverend Howard Finster, Whitfield Lovell, Tony Oursler, Howardena Pindell, Betye Saar, Renée Stout, Dorothea Tanning, Alma Thomas, Grant Wood, and Andrew Wyeth, as well as canonical objects, such as John Quidor’s depiction of Ichabod Crane. The exhibition will also highlight underrepresented artists whose work is newer to art historical consideration and has never before been included in museum exhibitions of American art, including the creations of 19th- and 20th-century “spirit artists”—who purported to make art by allowing their bodies to be directed by spirits or who acted as mediums to bring forth images during séances without the intervention of a human hand. The exhibition will be on view through May 15. Tickets go on sale today.

Curated by Robert Cozzolino, PhD, Mia’s Patrick and Aimee Butler Curator of Paintings, the multimedia exhibition garnered input from a broad advisory group of artists, academics, and community members. It features painting, sculpture, drawings, sketchbooks and albums, books, prints, photographs, video, and objects such as scientific instruments and Spiritualism material culture, including Ouija boards and planchettes. The exhibition emphasizes personal experiences of the paranormal; most featured artists assert direct encounters with the supernatural. Others find it an important source of inspiration and meaning.

“The mysterious and intangible are integral to American identity for profound and painful reasons, which explains why artists and entertainers across media continue to make art about the supernatural,” said Cozzolino, who began research for the exhibition in 2016. “At its heart, this exhibition is about the imaginative capacity of humanity to consider what lies beyond tangible existence, and how this is reflected in visual culture. ‘Supernatural America’ brings together American artists who have explored even the most incomprehensible or impossible ideas. The exhibition delves into how these works relate to both personal and collective narratives of the haunted, the spiritual, and the cosmic.”

The exhibition is organized into four overarching themes:

  • America as a Haunted Place, including artwork that shows the relationship of haunting to history and place, considering the ways that the unsettled ghosts of the past linger, return, and affect the environment;
  • Apparitions, showing how artists visualized spirits from literature and firsthand experience to invent an iconography of the spectral;
  • Channeling Spirits/Ritual, featuring artwork that depicts mediumship and conjuring, was made through the practice of channeling spirits, or was crafted to play a critical role in ritual; and
  • Plural Universes, presenting the ways artists have attempted to describe other dimensions based on speculation, science, and the translation of personal experiences, including UFO and extraterrestrial sightings.
  • “This exhibition examines the inherent human impulse to look for meaning beyond the visible realm,” said Katie Luber, PhD, Mia’s Nivin and Duncan MacMillan Director and President. “No matter our beliefs, we all seek answers of some shape or form, and it is our hope that the artwork and artists highlighted in ‘Supernatural America’ will encourage empathy and the exploration and discussion of wide perspectives.”

    Programming for the exhibition includes:

  • an opening weekend conversation and lecture series featuring artists such as Tony Oursler and Renée Stout, scholars such as Bridget R. Cooks and Jeffrey Kripal, and curator Robert Cozzolino,
  • talks by artist Alison Saar and Spiritualism scholar Molly McGarry,
  • Stories of the Supernatural, an exploration of the otherworldly through graphic novels and comic books, co-hosted with Moon Palace Books and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design,
  • a panel discussion featuring artists Chris Pappan, John Jota Leaños, and Chholing Taha, moderated by artist Andrea Carlson discussing Indigeneity, time, and the Spirit world,
  • and a film series co-presented by The Film Society of Minneapolis St. Paul
  • A full schedule of programs can be found online at artsmia.org.

    “Supernatural America” is accompanied by a full-color catalogue published by the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the University of Chicago. The publication will include thematic essays and nearly 300 images, many representing artwork reproduced for the first time.

    Lead Sponsors: National Endowment for the Humanities, Thomson Reuters, Terra Foundation for American Art
    Major Supporters: Art Bridges, National Endowment for the Arts, Delta
    Generous Supporter: Wyeth Foundation for American Art
    This exhibition is organized by the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
    Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.