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‘Supernatural America: The Paranormal in American Art’ premieres at the Toledo Museum of Art before national tour

Super Natural
Anniversary by artist Marvin Cone

The first museum exhibition to explore more than 200 years of American art through the lens of the spectral and supernatural will be on view in Toledo this summer. Supernatural America: The Paranormal in American Art brings together a diverse cohort of established and emerging artists active in the United States since the late-18th century, whose work has approached this mysterious and compelling subject through a wide variety of styles and media. The exhibition presents approximately 160 objects, including painting, drawings, sketchbooks and printed books, photographs, video and other objects such as scientific instruments and Spiritualist ritual objects. It will be on view June 12 through Sept. 5, 2021 in TMA’s Levis Gallery and New Media Gallery.

Supernatural America is organized by the Minneapolis Institute of Art and curated by Robert Cozzolino, Mia’s Patrick and Aimee Butler Curator of Paintings in collaboration with a broad advisory group. After its debut in Toledo, the exhibition appears at the Speed Art Museum Oct. 7, 2021, through Jan. 2, 2022, and at the Minneapolis Institute of Art Feb. 19 through May 15, 2022.

“From coast to coast and across generations, the supernatural has spellbound Americans and American artists alike,” said Adam M. Levine, TMA’s Edward Drummond and Florence Scott Libbey director and CEO. “This innovative exhibition considers the many inspired ways that artists have processed supernatural experiences and stories through works of art. We hope through this exhibition to continue to broaden the narrative of history shared at TMA, so that visitors may find a meaningful point of entry to engage with our programming.”

The “supernatural” and “paranormal” refer to encounters and phenomena beyond scientific explanation that suggest an order of existence beyond the visible and observable universe and that appear to transcend the laws of nature. A broad range of artists in the U.S. has engaged this subject matter, which often grew out of their personal experiences, faith traditions and scientific pursuits.

“Bridging science, psychology and spirituality, this exhibition explores the supernatural in American art by placing it within broader cultural currents and connecting it to contemporary audiences and events,” said Lauren Applebaum, curator of the exhibition at TMA and curator of American Art at North Carolina Museum of Art.

Interdisciplinary, multicultural and multimedia in nature, Supernatural America is divided into sections that examine America as a haunted place, apparitions, channeling spirits through rituals and the potential for plural universes. Among the many remarkable artists whose work explores the paranormal and supernatural in the exhibition are Gertrude Abercrombie, Charles Burchfield, Marvin Cone, Minnie Evans, John Jota Leaños, Norman Lewis, Whitfield Lovell, Helen Lundeberg, Tony Oursler, Agnes Pelton, Howardena Pindell, Rachel Rose, Alison Saar, Betye Saar, Carolee Schneemann, Renée Stout, Dorothea Tanning, Alma Thomas, Bill Viola, Grant Wood and Andrew Wyeth.

Highlights include Grant Wood’s haunting painting Death on the Ridge Road (1935); Gertrude Abercrombie’s surrealist canvas Strange Shadows (Shadow and Substance) (1950), linking a woman, pedestal, owl, goblet and clock; Betye Saar’s provocative wood, glass and print assemblage The View from the Sorcerer’s Window (1966); and Whitfield Lovell’s mixed-media installation of domestic space entitled Visitation: The Richmond Project (2001). The exhibition also includes numerous works by Spiritualist mediums that made images in ritual collaboration with spirits. Most of these artists have never been featured in a major museum exhibition before.


Supernatural America: The Paranormal in American Art is organized by the Minneapolis Institute of Art. The exhibition has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Terra Foundation for American Art. The exhibition is sponsored locally by 2021 Exhibition Program Sponsors Taylor Cadillac and ProMedica, presenting sponsors Susan and Tom Palmer, and with additional support from the Ohio Arts Council.


Admission is free for Toledo Museum of Art members and $10 for nonmembers; $7 for military, and seniors; $7 for college and youth; free for children ages 4 and younger.

Exhibition catalogue

Supernatural America: The Paranormal in American Art is accompanied by a 320-page fully illustrated publication of the same name. Edited by Robert Cozzolino, the catalogue features contributions from the curator and John Jota Leaños, María del Pilar Blanco, Sarah Burns, Wendy Bellion, Rachael Z. DeLue, Brandon Hodge, Adam M. Thomas, Tony Oursler, George P. Hansen, Alexander Nemerov, Michelle Donnelly, Bridget R. Cooks, Renée Stout, Lacey Prpic Hedtke, Rachel Middleman and Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock.