Radical Spirits: Hilma’s Ghost

The sign outside the gallery; the exhibit continues until Nov 1

As I found myself in Connecticut this weekend, I stopped off at the Hill-Stead Museum to visit the exhibit Radical Spirits: Tarot, Automatism, and Feminist Histories put together by the collective Hilma’s Ghost (named of course for Hilma af Klint):

Hilma’s Ghost, named after af Klint, is a feminist artist collective consisting of Brooklyn-based artists and educators Dannielle Tegeder and Sharmistha Ray. The duo makes art collaboratively, conducts free workshops and programs, and engages in research that uplifts ancient and premodern knowledge systems that have been a source of personal strength and aesthetic innovation for women artists. Tegeder and Ray, both independent artists, first collaborated in 2021 on a series of seventy-eight drawings, five paintings, and an original tarot deck titled ABSTRACT FUTURES TAROT. That project—inspired by another overlooked woman artist, Pamela Colman Smith—motivated the duo to imagine new ways of expanding on the tarot’s hidden meanings and to deepen their investigation of the relationship between ritual, magic, and art through abstraction.

The museum’s founder and architect, Theodate Pope Riddle, was a contemporary of af Klint. She passionately supported exploration of the spirit world, participating in séances with notable mediums and funding psychical research. Automatic writing from those séances (and now housed in Hill-Stead’s library), is a core element of the exhibition, which entwines the history of Spiritualism in the Americas and Europe with automatic processes in art.

It’s an unexpected place — everything was a-flutter for a wedding that was going on that day. The gorgeous grounds including a sunken garden were picturesque location for the event. Having begun the day with a memorial service, it was good to be reminded of people’s ever-hopeful resilience.

The exhibit was small but quite interesting, both the artefacts from the founder’s own experiments including photos and autograph documents of automatic writing. The art by the collective was vivid and abstract, and there was a short video talking about the process of the work and the exhibit both. Display cases held the tarot cards, in fact one had Colman Smith’s cards side by side with their abstract futures deck. Well worth a visit: plan a time when you can enjoy a stroll around the grounds and the tour through the house which has a number of paintings in it as well from people like Mary Cassatt. More photos on FB.