Monthly Archives: May 2016

Arts of Espiritismo


My 2014 book featured work from four generations of the same religious family. However, over the course of my research, I worked with a number of practicing espiritistas. I have not had the opportunity to publish these images elsewhere, so I thought I would include them here on the website.

Portrait of Francisca, spirit guide to Francesca Lizzi. Centro Habana.

Picture 1 of 6

All of the espiritistas with whom I spoke actively worked with these art objects. None of these were static works of art. Whether through physical touch, changing objects nearby in the altar, the placement of the work, or even the clothes or dress added to the sculpture, the religious artist regularly rearranged the object to reflect changing requests for the spirits represented.

Update: Weds, April 6th, Conversation with Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons

12961356_10102909681027769_2738943101877917144_oApril was a whirlwind of activity! Among the highlights, James Madison University’s Duke Hall Gallery of Fine Art hosted Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons and I in conversation about her work.

Campos Pons Island TreasuresWe spoke for nearly an hour and a half, including wonderful audience questions and responses. During the conversation, Campos-Pons discussed the above work, Island Treasures, in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum.  I brought the work up for discussion because I had been interested in linking the materials featured in the work to Afro-Atlantic religious arts practices. Often sticks are bundled together as an offering, or a means of contemplating changes in one’s world. However, Campos-Pons pointed to even greater meanings. She had collected these sticks on the island of Gorée, in Senegal, just outside of the House of Slaves, a holding point for captive Africans being sent to the Americas in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Campos-Pons will be performing with her husband, Neil Leonard, at the National Portrait Gallery on Saturday, May 14th from 4:00-5:00pm. Their performance will offer further means to contemplate these challenging histories. Details are here:

I am grateful to Dr. Bill Van Norman of JMU for the photograph of the two of us on stage.