Visitors to New York’s Armory Show, which opened to VIPs today, can catch a glimpse of what the future may hold thanks to art witch and psychic medium Sarah Potter. She will be offering tarot card readings at the booth of Chicago’s Carrie Secrist Gallery for a couple of hours each day.
Potter is using cards designed by feminist art collective Hilma’s Ghost, a duo formed during lockdown by abstract artists Dannielle Tegeder and Sharmistha Ray, both of whom were deeply impacted by the hit exhibition of pioneering abstractionist and spiritual painter Hilma af Klint at New York’s Guggenheim Museum in 2018–19.
“It’s inspired by Hilma af Klint—it’s about the rise of spiritualism and witchcraft and the feminist undertones of that,” Tegeder told Artnet News. “We used processes of spiritualism and divination, and called upon the spirits of women artists who are not alive to activate the work and work through us.”
Sitting side by side for upwards of 500 hours over the past three months, the two women passed each work on paper back and forth to adapt Klint’s pioneering abstraction to the contemporary age. The result is “Abstract Futures Tarot,” a series of 78 small gouache, ink, and colored pencil paintings, each of which corresponds to one of the cards in the deck.
“It developed as the really beautiful conversation,” Ray told Artnet News, noting that she was pleasantly surprised to see how her more colorful style melded perfectly with Tegeder’s minimalist approach to art-making. “Carrie [Secrist] said to us, ‘I see three artists in this work’—I think we were really channeling Hilma af Klint.”
The paintings, which are priced at $4,000 each, are abstracted takes on the familiar images of the Rider–Waite tarot deck, created by unsung British illustrator Pamela Colman Smith in 1909.
“She was unrecognized, and yet it’s the most distributed deck in the world,” Ray said.
Before beginning work on the tarot paintings, Hilma’s Ghost held a number of digital programs during lockdown, offering virtual workshops on topics such as shamanism and automatic drawing. Potter got involved to host a class on sigil making, a form of magic in which one creates a personal symbol that is meant to be a source of great power. (Each painting has a sigil mark combining the artists’ initials on the back.)
“I just really loved what they were doing and I love Hilma—I feel like her spirit guides me through my work,” Potter told Artnet News.
After all 78 paintings were complete, Tegeder and Ray used the imagery to produce an actual deck of cards in a limited edition, enlisting Potter to conduct a ritual to activate the deck.
“We have to charge all our tools magically,” Potter said.
She did her first reading with the deck for Tegeder and Ray, who in turn combined the imagery from the six cards drawn to create new, large-scale paintings. The small works are $4,000 each, while the larger ones are priced at $8,000, $20,000, and $38,000.
Half the works on paper have already sold, and dozens of other collectors are looking to finalize acquisitions, according to the gallery. Each painting comes with a signed tarot deck, which are also selling out quickly at $100 a pop—215 of the edition of 300 had already been snapped up when Artnet News visited the booth.
But even if you’re too late to buy, you can sit with Potter, who claimed my cards were foretelling “an exciting opportunity for you to find a new method to channel your passions into.”
“The inspiration,” she said, “leads the way.”
See more paintings from the series below.
“Hilma’s Ghost: Dannielle Tegeder and Sharmistha Ray” is on view from Chicago’s Carrie Secrist Gallery at the Armory Show, Booth F7, at the Javits Center, 429 11th Avenue, New York, September 9–12, 2021.
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