Remedios Varo, Witch Going to the Sabbath, Mixed media on paper, 1957
Witch Pictures: Female Magic and Transgression in Western Art
The image of the witch as we know it first appeared in visual culture in the late fifteenth century, and became a popular subject in artwork in the years that followed through today. Artists as varied as Dürer, Fuseli, Goya and Blake used the archetype of magical – and often malevolent – women to titillate their patrons or reflect their own anxiety about female bodies and societal roles, often resulting in works that were either grotesque or beguilingly glamorous. But what happens when witches themselves wield the brush? In the mid-nineteenth century, a family tree of female visionary artists began to take root. Deeply entrenched in esoteric studies, and often engaging in their own ritual practices, these women began creating works that used their own metaphysical experiences as inspiration, thus becoming their own muses. In this richly illustrated presentation, Pam Grossman will explore the witchy women artists of abstraction, surrealism, modernism – and movements that have yet to be classified – and shine a light in the corners of art history where craft and Craft are one and the same.
Pam Grossman is an independent curator, writer, and teacher of magical practice and history. She is the creator of Phantasmaphile, a blog which specializes in art and culture with an esoteric or fantastical bent, and the Associate Editor of Abraxas International Journal of Esoteric Studies. She is also the co-organizer of the Occult Humanities Conference at NYU, and co-founder of the Brooklyn arts & lecture space, Observatory (2009-2014), where her programming explored mysticism via a scholarly yet accessible approach.
Her group art shows and projects, including Language of the Birds: Occult and Art at NYU’s 80WSE Gallery, have been featured by such outlets as Artforum, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Art in America, Newsweek, New York Magazine, Village Voice, Boing Boing, Art & Antiques Magazine, CREATIVE TIME, Time Out New York, Hyperallergic, Juxtapoz, Arthur, 20×200, UrbanOutfitters.com, and Neil Gaiman’s Twitter.
Pam’s writing has appeared in numerous mediums, including The Huffington Post, MSN.com, Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Film Comment blog, the Etsy blog, Sciences Occultes magazine, and various Fulgur press publications. As a featured guest on HuffPost LIVE, The Midnight Archive web series, and myriad other radio shows and podcasts, she has discussed the role of magic in contemporary life.
She is Getty Images’ Director of Visual Trends, and she lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Matt, and their two cat familiars, Albee and Remedios “Remy” Varo.