The New Social Environment#86

Spirit Voices, Women’s Voices


1 p.m. Eastern / 10 a.m. Pacific

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 Aberth

Susan Aberth headshot

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.

Ann McCoy

Portrait drawing of Ann McCoy
Portrait by Phong H. Bui
Ann McCoy is a New York-based sculptor, painter, and art critic, and Editor at Large for the Brooklyn Rail. She was awarded a 2019 John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. She lectured on art history, the history of projection, and mythology, in the graduate design section of the Yale School of Drama from 2010 to 2020, and taught in the Art History Department at Barnard College from 1980 through 2000. Ann McCoy did a conversation with William Kentridge at the American Academy in Rome for his Tiber project, “Triumphs and Laments”, which was published in the Brooklyn Rail. Ann McCoy’s work is included in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others. McCoy has received awards from the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, the Asian Cultural Council, the Pollock Krasner Foundation, the Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation Award, the Award in the Visual Arts, the Prix de Rome, the National Endowment for the Art, the Berliner Kunstler Program D.A.A.D.. She is known for her large scale drawings, sculpture, and work with projection.

The Rail has a tradition of ending our conversations with a poetry reading, and we’re fortunate to have Rodrigo Toscano reading.

Rodrigo Toscano

A headshot of poet Rodrigo Toscano
Rodrigo Toscano’s poetry has appeared in Voices Without Borders, Diasporic Avant Gardes, and Imagined Theatres, among others. He is an advocate for environmental & labor justice, health & safety culture, and immigrant worker rights. His newest book of poetry is “In Range”.

❤️ 🌈 We'd like to thank the The Terra Foundation for American Art for making these daily conversations possible, and for their support of our growing archive.