Sympathetic Magic: Works of Faith, Healing and Transformation | August 26–October 17, 2021

Sympathetic Magic Install Images
Sympathetic Magic Install
Sympathetic Magic Install
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Throughout history and across the planet, people have invariably created objects promoting faith, healing and transformation. Sympathetic Magic presents objects from Vanderbilt University Collections alongside works by modern and contemporary artists, in acknowledgement of the steadfast and uniquely human belief in the transformative power of art.

Historical artifacts on view—ranging from votives and tomb objects to divination systems from China, Africa and the American South—diverge widely in origin and intent, but embody a shared investment in physical objects as agents of metaphysical change. Works by celebrated artists of the twentieth century, such as Marc Chagall, Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol, reflect the enduring influence of faith traditions even in avant-garde art-making. The contemporary artists in this exhibition—including Department of Art faculty María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Raheleh Filsoofi and Jana Harper, as well as alumnus Aiden Layer—draw insight from distinct mediums and diverse cultural backgrounds, contributing artworks that bridge the inner life of an individual with the material world we all share. Meanwhile, artworks by Jeffrey Gibson, Lubaina Himid and Kara Walker exemplify art as a vehicle for collective transformation, by encouraging a reckoning with history—that of this century as well as those past—to effect positive change in the future.

This exhibition was made possible, in part, by a generous gift from Bertram L. Levy. Objects in the gallery have been gathered from across Vanderbilt University’s collections including the Fine Arts Gallery Collection, History of Medicine Collections and Special Collections and University Archives at the Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries.

Artist Unknown (Lianzhu Culture, China) Bi disc, ca. 3300–2000 BCE  Nephrite Jade Gift of Chauncey P. Lowe Collection of Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery  1999.138
Artist Unknown (Lianzhu Culture, China) Jade Cong, ca. 3300–2000 BCE  Jade Gift of Chauncey P. Lowe Collection of Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery  2002.027
Marc Chagall (Russian, 1887–1985) Moses, 1956
Photogravure
Collection of Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery
1970.041

Indian miniature painting of a Sage telling a story
Head of a boy (funerary), Egypt (Coptic), 4–5th century CE, Limestone with Polychrome, 5 ¼ x 5 x 5 ¼ inches, 1979.1012P
Johannes Oertel (German, 1823–1909) Oil on canvas 20 x 15 inches 1986.003
Warhol
Magdalene
Horse, China, early Tang dynasty (680–720 CE)
Jeffrey Gibson, A Time for Change, 2020
Anatolian amulet with an eye design, Turkey, date unknown
Geomancer's Compass, China, 19th–20th century
"Planting by the Signs"
Artist Unknown (Lianzhu Culture, China)
Artist Unknown (Lianzhu Culture, China)
Lubaina Himid (British, b. Zanzibar, 1954)
Marc Chagall (Russian, 1887–1985)
Artist Unknown (Northwestern Indian)
Divination instrument in the shape of an animal with long protruding head and tail with small rubbing staff attached, Africa (Zaire, Babuba or Lele), 19th century
Head of a boy (funerary), Egypt (Coptic), 4–5th century CE, Limestone with Polychrome, 5 ¼ x 5 x 5 ¼ inches, 1979.1012P
Johannes Oertel (German, 1823–1909), St. John Consoling the Virgin, 19th Century, Oil on canvas, 20 x 15 inches, 1986.003
Andy Warhol, American (1928–1987)
Kara Walker (American, b. 1969)
Carlo Antonio Tavella (Italian, 1668–1738)
Horse, China, early Tang dynasty (680–720 CE)
Horse Groom
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Jeffrey Gibson, A Time for Change, 2020
Anatolian amulet with an eye design, Turkey, date unknown
Geomancer's Compass, China, 19th–20th century
"Planting by the Signs"
Artist Unknown (Lianzhu Culture, China)
Artist Unknown (Lianzhu Culture, China)
Lubaina Himid (British, b. Zanzibar, 1954)
Marc Chagall (Russian, 1887–1985)
Artist Unknown (Northwestern Indian)
Divination instrument in the shape of an animal with long  protruding head and tail with small rubbing staff attached, Africa (Zaire, Babuba or Lele), 19th century
Head of a boy (funerary), Egypt (Coptic), 4–5th century CE, Limestone with Polychrome, 5 ¼ x 5 x 5 ¼ inches, 1979.1012P
Johannes Oertel (German, 1823–1909), St. John Consoling the Virgin, 19th Century, Oil on canvas, 20 x 15 inches, 1986.003
Andy Warhol, American (1928–1987)
Kara Walker (American, b. 1969)
Carlo Antonio Tavella (Italian, 1668–1738)
Horse, China, early Tang dynasty (680–720 CE)
Horse Groom
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