Fata Morgana: The New Female Fantasists


The Chemical Wedding by Madeline Von Foerster (2008).

Art lovers in the NYC area are advised to get down to the Saturday opening of this exhibition at the Dabora Gallery in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, for some great paintings and a free glass of absinthe. Fata Morgana: The New Female Fantasists is curated by Pam Grossman who runs one of my favourite art sites, Phantasmaphile. Further details can be found at the gallery pages which include links to the artists’ websites.

Dabora Gallery and Phantasmaphile’s Pam Grossman are proud to usher in the spring season with the group show “Fata Morgana: The New Female Fantasists,” on view from March 14th through April 12th, 2009. It features fourteen of the most vital and visionary women artists working in the US today.

In literal terms, a fata morgana is a mirage or illusion, a waking reverie, a shimmering of the mind. Named for the enchantress Morgan le Fay, these tricks of perception conjure up a sense of glimpsing into another world, whether it be the expanses of an ethereal terrain, or the twilit depths of the psyche. The artists of “Fata Morgana: The New Female Fantasists” deftly utilize the semiotics of mysticism, fantasy, and the subconscious in their work, thereby guiding the viewer through heretofore uncharted realms – alternately shadowy or luminous, but always inventive.

Yoko Ono recently said, “I think all women are witches, in the sense that a witch is a magical being.” Each artist in this show is a sorceress in her own right. Endowed with fecund imaginations and masterful craftsmanship, their work transforms the viewer: we become spellbound, bearing witness to their attempts to reconcile the desire for a diurnal beauty with the lure of a lush and riotous inner wilderness. The fantastical is counterpoint to the ferocious, the monstrous to the marvelous. Allusions to myth and metamorphosis abound, as these works channel their own heroine spirits and tell their own secret tales. Here, frame is magic threshold, bidding us to take a breath, and cross over.

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5 thoughts on “Fata Morgana: The New Female Fantasists”

  1. I wonder if Ono’s statement was also back-handed remark about most men. I like especially what Dennis Leary had to say about her at one point, but I won’t hold her words against the the mentioned artists, whose (at least in the case of those whom I’ve heard of) work I admire.

    On a similar subject, have you ever seen the dolls/art of Amano Katan? If David Lynch has seen her stuff, I almost bet $ he’d drool over it.

  2. Hi Wiley. I think Yoko is pretty sincere in everything that she says (I saw her at the Arthurfest in LA in 2005). She’s not the only person to make that kind of statement about women and witchcraft, it’s been a common theme in writings concerned with female empowerment from the Seventies on. Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today is one of the more notable book explorations of the subject.

    I’d not heard of Amano Katan before although that’s no surprise, Japanese art is a world that doesn’t stop giving. They also have a real doll fixation so the subject doesn’t surprise me either. I recently came across Simon Yotsuya who makes male dolls for a change. Creepy for other reasons.

  3. I’ll have to look into the book you’ve mentioned. I’ve a handful of books regarding Lilith, Inanna, Hecate, and company, it is certainly one of the subjects I am more fascinated by. Hopefully I didn’t come off as trying to say something misogynistic in a cowardly way. My problem, or rather one of my problems, with what has become of these (in my opinion) once-inspired scenes, is that they have become so damn currenty and political.

    I am/was interested in the occult’s psychological and artistic aspects mainly, but I’ve also seen things around ruined houses and the woods near where I live that I couldn’t (and old-fashioned science didn’t either) explain. I am not convinced they were of some ‘spiritual’ nature, but my point simply being that I am, or at least think I was interested by these matters out both a naturally dangerous aesthetic taste, and the fact that most of what I and probably anyone glimpses, is just that, a mere glimpse. Most of what one sees is mystery, it is not solid but memory, it could be and often is a facade for something else entirely. I laugh at fanatical skeptic ‘scientists’ obsessive and terrified attempts to explain away every trace of shadow or asymmetry, just as much as I do regarding religious fanatics filling uncertain aspect of life with hypocritical dogma.

    Underground ‘esoteric’ or ‘magickal’ communities have become mainly either inclined toward a naive, intellectually vegetative, hippy-everyone is everyone else’s loving brother and sister- mentality, which I absolutely hate. On the other hand, the LHP/darker communities, which I once held interest in, have been overtaken by extremely right-wing, nazi-sympathetic egotists. I think I absolutely hate absolutists, which probably makes me an absolutist myself. Ah but this is but another example of why subjects of unpredictable, dangerous, and yet ambivalent, ambiguous nature, usually delight me so.

    If you look inquisitively (I won’t acknowledge any specific schools), those following ‘the sacred feminine, white magickal path’ seem mainly like sentimentalist white trash whose minds are still lost in the age of aquarius, a typical liberal, at least on this side of the pond. On the other hand, those dedicating themselves to the ‘masculine destroyer and keeper of the law of might’ not only seem like insufferable rich conservatives, but most of them strike me as the baby-boomers’ spoiled and helpless children.

    I have a number of books on the occult. Most of them I bought for the art within, however the older books had much text regarding obsure aspects of history and myth, some of which were speculation and some of which was relatively unknown but accurate nonetheless. Also they featured a wealth of philosophical musing, not always as cleverly executed as say, The Book of Lies, but stimulating nonetheless. The Symbolist painters found a wealth of inspiration in the occult without hanging its every word, just as the surrealists (who may have been their offshoots in my opinion) found a wealth of inspiration from Freudian investigation without taking it all seriously. I see a kind of relationship between how recently a book of esoteric matters is written and how biased and stagnant the ideas are and (thank the devil for digital thumbnails) how shitty and juvenile the art is.

    Its become so elitist and so political. For about a year now I’ve all but had it with the whole thing. I’ve lost my taste for depictions of horned beings and sabbats, and my own artistic endeavors have gone totally graphic and cruel-true crime nonesense, though I think they are cleverly done. I have ended up making scans of my older ‘mysterious’ paintings, which are collecting dust, just in case I sell them for far less than they are worth.

    Austin Osman Spare once wrote something to the effect of ‘I don’t believe in black and white magic any more than I believe black and white are the only colors in the world’.

    This ad interests me because some of the artists interest me, but nearly expo of its kind, though this one stands above the rest, caters either mainly to wiccans driving beaters and living in trailers, or to unemployed members of the Church of Satan who live a lie thanks to rich relatives.

  4. Occult inspiration lies at the root of a core of 20th century painting, something that art history books are often too embarrassed to mention. Mondrian and Kandinsky both helped develop the abstract style but they began as post-Symbolists and Mondrian was a Theosophist, as I recall. Matisse was a student of Gustave Moreau and his early work is in the Moreau style. All this gets ignored in art history which always traces a line from the Impressionists through to Cubism and regards Symbolism as an irrelevance.

    Art tells us things about ourselves and the world which can’t be expressed in any other way. The occult (and religion–the other side of that coin) tries to provide maps and metaphors for the things which science can’t explain. It’s quite natural that the two should meet now and then.

  5. Men can be witches too.

    Like Wiley, I began to despair of the Pagan and occult world until I found lots of fellow Pagan bloggers who don’t fit the two stereotypes he outlines.

    I like that fantastic art website.

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