Supernatural America: The paranormal in American art visits TMA

Marvin Cone, “Anniversary,” painted in 1938.

Toledo Museum of Art hosts an exhibit for anyone haunted by questions of the paranormal— translated into works of art by American artists from the 19th century to present day.

Beginning June 12th and running until September 5th, TMA visitors will have the opportunity to observe and sometimes interact with 150 objects organized by the Minneapolis Institute of Art. 

“Anyone who has ever experienced something inexplicable or wondered if we are alone in the universe will want to see this exhibition,” says Lauren Applebaum, Supernatural America exhibit curator. “I hope visitors come away from this exhibition with a more expansive understanding of the varied ways that artists have engaged and explored otherworldly subjects in the United States for the past two centuries.”

Macena Barton. American, 1901–1986. Untitled (Flying Saucers with Snakes), 1961 Oil on canvas, 28 × 36 in. M. Christine Schwartz Collection. Photo: Michael Tropea, Chicago, IL. © Estate of Macena Barton.

What was that?
Supernatural America brings with it interactive elements such as Tom Friedman’s Wall, 2017, where a projection of a ghostly hand appears to reach outwardly, Tony Oursler’s Dust, 2006, a multisensory, immersive installation featuring a foggy shifting mass of body parts with sounds of voices and murmurs, and Bill Viola’s Three Women, 2008, which taps into “the palpable feeling of the presence of the dead” as experienced by the artist working on an installation at a church in Venice.

The exhibit will also feature instruments like planchettes and Ouija boards, photographs, furniture, sketchbooks, prints, clothing, textiles, and video- all which push the boundaries of science and psychology to reflect the paranormal from the historical to UFOs. 

“Whether through early pseudoscientific studies seeking to understand parapsychology, government documentations of UFOs or individual reckonings with the spirits of those who have passed away, American culture is filled with tales of the supernatural and accounts of paranormal experiences,” says Applebaum. 

The past didn’t go anywhere
Intertwined with Supernatural America are lessons of the past that still haunt our society today. These themes are reflected in works like John Jota Leaños film Destinies Manifest, 2017 showing through animation our country’s history of settler colonialism which forcibly removed Indigenous peoples from their land, and other works addressing wartime violence, genocide, enslavement and other national traumas. 

Visitors to this exhibit will be privy to objects and paraphernalia used to summon spirits and encounter life beyond this Earth. “The featured artists assert in a variety of ways that the supernatural is actually a natural part of lived experience.”

Tickets are free for members and $12 for nonmembers. Discounts for military, college students, and seniors ($10); youth ages 5-17 ($7); and children four and younger (free) are available.

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