This exhibition arose from a conversation we’ve been having for years about our shared affinity for a certain kind of art to which we’re drawn, can’t quite name, but recognize when we see it. Artworks and artists that share an affinity with what we thought of as a “witchy” sensibility, which we see as using the iconography of the supernatural, occult, and witchcraft to channel ideas about power, the body, and gender.
The conversation began because Laurie was aware of Dan’s interest in the history of graphic art and his insatiable desire to discover new work—often by lesser known artists. She introduced him to the work of Auste Peciura who showed her work in the adjacent gallery when Laurie had her first show at Artists Space in 1979. Discussing Auste led us to the mid-century gothic drawing and filmmaking, from Edward Gorey to Alfred Hitchcock, and that got us thinking about the work of contemporary artists who stirred up some of the same feelings; we discovered a shared passion for the paintings of Ellen Berkenblit, the sculptures of Niki de Saint Phalle, and the photography of Deborah Turbeville. This constellation of artists became the center of an ongoing game, a list to which we would add and subtract whenever we met.
This is how All Of Them Witches was born, though it was many months before we had the idea for an exhibition and longer still before there was a concept and a title. The essence of the work seems to emanate from women, though there are certainly male and trans artists whose works fit the bill. The art touches on spells and incantations, wishes and curses, though it needs a dose of adolescence to make sense in the context we’ve created. This crosses into works about or employing notions of gender, puberty, sex, the historical occult, cartoons, ritual, landscape, and fantasy. This iconography offers a recognizable foothold for makers and viewers alike in otherwise traditionally challenging subject matter and allusive poetics. This was the matrix we used to discern artists who shared an affinity with what we thought of as a “witchy” sensibility.
While we respect the history and context of real-practice occult, this is a show about the aesthetic influence of those traditions, not the actual practice behind it. Multiple generations and media will be present, from painting (Hollis Sigler, Gertrude Abercrombie), drawing (Heather Benjamin, Cameron), sculpture (Audrey Flack, Greer Lankton), videos (Marilyn Minter’s Green Caviar), and photographs (Cindy Sherman, Bea Nettles).
In a time of constant historical and thematic artistic rediscoveries, we present a breadcrumb trail that already exists—a shared language across generations of artists who share in a knowledge of, and taste for, a bit of the cauldron and a touch of darkness.