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Hauntings and visions explored in Fitchburg Art Museum's new contemporary art exhibition

Press release submitted by Fitchburg Art Museum

The group exhibition After Spiritualism: Loss and Transcendence in Contemporary Art at Fitchburg Art Museum offers an occasion to reflect on personal and shared losses through the varied contemporary art practices of fifteen artists. The works on view materialize trauma and mourning, at times confronting historical conflicts and seeking to overcome long-standing divisions. The exhibition on view February 8–June 7, 2020, is inspired by Spiritualism and Espiritismo’s aims to connect the living with the dead for comfort, guidance, and enlightenment.

Anne Lilly, To Be, 2016, mirror, acrylic, aluminum, stainless, delrin, engineering components, motor, micro controller, chairs. (Courtesy photo)

Spiritualism is a science, religion, and philosophy that developed in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century and grew in popularity through the early twentieth century. The movement was initially defined by its aspirations for reform, as it advocated for women’s rights and suffrage, abolitionism, and democratic access to a spiritual realm. Fitchburg Art Museum Curator Dr. Lisa Crossman notes “Spiritualism and interest in it peaks at moments of crisis or when there is a shared sense of instability. Spiritualism and related practices also disrupt binary thinking and offer a means for an expanded exploration of spirituality.” Spiritualism has made a national and international impact. It has a rich history in New England, including the origins of spirit photography, which will be explored in the exhibition’s Learning Lounge. Espiritismo (Spiritism), while distinct from Spiritualism, similarly centers on spirit communication and has had ties to reform. Espiritismo began to evolve into several distinct variants in the Caribbean, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, as it blended French educator Allan Kardec’s (pen name of Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail) writings on Spiritism with aspects of African-based religions like Santeria and indigenous beliefs. It then spread through the diaspora to the United States.

While only a few of the participating artists practice Spiritualism or Espiritismo, they all explore broad, interconnected themes such as the impact of history on the present, transgression and agency through ritual, and the experience and residue of loss.

This exhibition is organized by Curator Lisa Crossman with Terrana Curatorial Fellow Marjorie Rawle.

Participating artists: Laylah Ali, Imna Arroyo, Julie K. Gray, Candice Ivy, Brian Knep, Anne Lilly, Rose Marasco, Antonio Martorell, Maria Molteni (with Lacey Prpić Hedtke), Keith Morris Washington, Rhonda Ratray, Allison Maria Rodriguez, Juan Sánchez, and Kim Weston.


  • Spiritualism and Espiritismo
    Sunday, April 5, 1:30pm
    Learn about the historical roots of Spiritualism and Espiritismo and their contemporary manifestations with scholars Susan Aberth and Jason Baumann Montilla, artist Julie K. Gray, and Spiritualist and Certified Medium Sirry Berndsen. Free for all FAM members and free with admission.
  • Memorials and Memory
    Sunday, May 17, 1:30pm
    A conversation on memorials and memory with artist Keith Morris Washington in FAM’s galleries and walking tour with the Friends of the Fitchburg Abolitionist Park to sites in Fitchburg, including Monument Park and the future site of the Fitchburg Abolitionist Park. Free for all FAM members and free with admission.
  • Messages to the Beyond
    Sunday, June 7, 1:30pm
    In celebration of the closing of After Spiritualism, the curators will be available for conversation in the galleries preceding a ritual send-off of visitors’ written messages to the beyond with artist Imna Arroyo. Free for all FAM members and free with admission.

Related exhibitions

  • Visionary New England
    deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum
    April 24–September 13, 2020
  • Recruiting for Utopia: Print and the Imagination
    Fruitlands Museum
    April 18, 2020–March 21, 2021

This cultural collaboration across three Greater Boston arts institutions will offer visitors a range of art and public programming exploring issues of utopianism and Spiritualism, past and present.

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