America is haunted. Ghosts from its violent history—the genocide of Indigenous peoples, slavery, the threat of nuclear annihilation, and traumatic wars—are an inescapable and unsettled part of the nation’s heritage. Not merely in the realm of metaphor but present and tangible, urgently calling for contact, these otherworldly visitors have been central to our national identity. Through times of mourning and trauma, artists have been integral to visualizing ghosts, whether national or personal, and in doing so have embraced the uncanny and the inexplicable. This stunning catalog, accompanying the first major exhibition to assess the spectral in American art, explores the numerous ways American artists have made sense of their own experiences of the paranormal and the supernatural, developing a rich visual culture of the intangible.
Featuring artists from James McNeill Whistler and Kerry James Marshall to artist/mediums who made images with spirits during séances, this catalog covers more than two hundred years of the supernatural in American art. Here we find works that explore haunting, UFO sightings, and a broad range of experiential responses to other worldly contact.