RADICAL SPIRITS: Tarot and Automatism in the Works of Hilma’s Ghost

June 25 to November 1, 2022

Hilma’s Ghost/Carrie Secrist Gallery

Seeking freedom within oppressive societies, women throughout history have gravitated toward alternative creative and spiritual practices. One such practice is mediumship or communication with the spirit world through a human intermediary. There have been mediums among artists, and since most mediums are women, the history of mediumship in art dovetails neatly with stories of overlooked women artists. Hilma af Klint (1862–1944) is one such figure. A Swedish artist and mystic, she was virtually unknown until 2018, when a revelatory exhibition of her work at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York secured her a place in art history alongside male counterparts such as Vasily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian. Af Klint was inspired to create The Ten Largest—a group of ten massive abstract paintings created in 1907—through a series of séances she held with four other women who shared her beliefs. Known as The Five, they contacted spiritual beings they called The High Ones, who instructed af Klint in her groundbreaking work.

“Have you noticed that what you are looking for is already right in front of you?” 2022, Gouache, watercolor, ink, and colored pencil on Fabriano Murillo paper, 39 x 27 in.

Hilma’s Ghost, named after af Klint, is a feminist artist collective consisting of Brooklyn-based artists and educators Dannielle Tegeder and Sharmistha Ray. The duo makes art collaboratively, conducts free workshops and programs, and engages in research that uplifts ancient and premodern knowledge systems that have been a source of personal strength and aesthetic innovation for women artists. Tegeder and Ray, both independent artists, first collaborated in 2021 on a series of seventy-eight drawings, five paintings, and an original tarot deck titled ABSTRACT FUTURES TAROT. That project—inspired by another overlooked woman artist, Pamela Colman Smith—motivated the duo to imagine new ways of expanding on the tarot’s hidden meanings and to deepen their investigation of the relationship between ritual, magic, and art through abstraction.

In RADICAL SPIRITS: Tarot, Automatism, and Feminist Histories, Tegeder and Ray will explore the creative, spiritual, and narrative potential of tarot, mediumship, and automatism in art-making. In this, they tap into the long-established but overlooked history of these practices at Hill-Stead. The museum’s founder and architect, Theodate Pope Riddle, was a contemporary of af Klint. She passionately supported exploration of the spirit world, participating in séances with notable mediums and funding psychical research. Automatic writing from those séances (and now housed in Hill-Stead’s library), is a core element of the exhibition, which entwines the history of Spiritualism in the Americas and Europe with automatic processes in art. As part of their research, Tegeder and Ray participated in channeling and drawing sessions at the historic house, facilitated by Sarah Potter, a professional witch, and engaged in other ritual and divinatory practices to create five new paintings for the show. These new works recover the lost art of theorem painting, a popular stenciling technique that was taught in girls’ academies throughout New England in the nineteenth century.

Hilma’s Ghost/Carrie Secrist Gallery

A selection from CHROMAGICK, a recent suite of drawings based on the tarot, will also be on view. Tegeder and Ray pulled cards from their tarot deck for compositional inspiration while also tapping their considerable knowledge of color and pigment to imbue the works with magic. Likening the drawings to “hidden gems,” they harnessed the innate vibrational energy of specific colors and crystals to imagine the works as talismans, each with their own special power. Through ritual processes that accompanied their art-making—including the burning of herbs, sigil making, and crystal, candle, and spirit invocations—the duo mined the potential of divination for their creative process.

RADICAL SPIRITS takes its title from a foundational 1989 book by Ann Braude that considers the importance of Spiritualism to the political liberation of American women in the nineteenth century. Hilma’s Ghost, initiated at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, reimagines the relationship between the spiritual and the political for a new era of liberation for women, nonbinary, and trans artists. In this way, the collective builds on the ancestral legacies of the powerful women artists who bravely drew on the occult in their work, including af Klint, Smith, Emma Kunz, and Leonora Carrington, but also those, like Ana Mendieta and Lygia Clark, who channeled the shamanic healing power of art for themselves.

ABSTRACT FUTURES TAROT, the tarot deck by Hilma’s Ghost, will be available at the museum’s shop during the exhibition.

This exhibition is made possible by the generous support of DesignSourceCT.


Entry to the exhibition is included in the general admission ticket to the historic house. Purchase tickets in the Museum Shop.

Members  | FREE
 | $18
AAA & Seniors (62+) | $16
Students | $12
Children 6-12 | $10
Children under 6 | FREE

Not a Member?  JOIN NOW

A Perfect Perch: The Architect’s Chair

An exhibition focusing on the art of chair design!

On view April 22 – May 22, 2022

Photos: Derek Hayn/Centerbrook


Hill-Stead embodies a passion for all manner of design—architecture, interior appointments, artistic vision painted on a canvas or etched into a plate and transferred to paper, horticultural…the list goes on. At design’s most basic level, Hill-Stead is a microcosm for life.

On the occasion of its 75th birthday, Hill-Stead takes this opportune moment in its history to reflect on the past as well as looking ahead to the future. We have partnered with Centerbrook Architects and Planners, the firm that designed our award-winning renovation and state-of-the-art new galleries, to present A Perfect Perch: The Architect’s Chair. The exhibition focuses on an item that is critical to our daily lives: the chair.

A chair meets dynamic forces with relatively slender parts. It also has to be comfortable and beautiful from all vantage points, like a sculpture. While many architects have designed a chair, it should be noted that after the experience the renowned architect Mies van der Rohe quipped, “A chair is a very difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier. That is why Chippendale is famous.”

The chairs on view – those by Theodate Pope Riddle and the 20+ gorgeous examples by participants of The Centerbrook Chairshop – will serve as a connection between the past and the present, engendering appreciation, and curiosity. The Chairshop began in 2012 and reflects the firm’s devotion to craft, beauty, economy, and humanism. In designing her chairs, for her two landmark halls of education (Avon Old Farms and Westover schools), Theodate was equally concerned with how the buildings would be lived in by generations of students and faculty as by the physical attributes of the structures themselves. While she may not have put pencil to paper to sketch the actual design concepts for desks and chairs and tables and beds, she mentally designed the furnishings by selecting, or directing the manufacture of, pieces simple in design but of the utmost quality in materials and workmanship to fit within her overarching vision.

This exhibition is therefore timely and meaningful as we mark our 75th anniversary, honor our architect-founder as well as our collaboration with Centerbrook, and celebrate the power of inspired design.


Entry to the exhibition is included in the general admission ticket to the historic house. Exhibition-only tickets are also available. Purchase tickets in the Museum Shop.

Exhibition Only

Entry to the special exhibition A Perfect Perch only

Members  | FREE
Adults | $8
AAA & Seniors (62+) | $8
Students | $4
Children 6-12 | $4
Children under 6 | FREEGeneral Admission Tickets

Not a Member?  JOIN NOW

General Admission

Entry to the special exhibition A Perfect Perch and one-hour tour of the historic house

Members  | FREE
 | $18
AAA & Seniors (62+) | $16
Students | $12
Children 6-12 | $10
Children under 6 | FREE

Not a Member?  JOIN NOW

Through the Tulle – A Costume Exhibition

November 27 through January 10

Photo Credit: Thomas Giroir

Tour the museum filled with over 20 sparkling pieces from the Ballet Theatre Company’s Through the Tulle costume exhibition

Throughout Ballet Theatre Company’s 22 years, the company’s full-length classical ballet productions and intimate contemporary performances have not only been recognized for the quality of dancing and choreography, but also for their incredibly detailed costume designs. To pay tribute to the artists who have created BTC’s impressive collection of costumes, and to feature this crucial component of ballet production that is too often left out of the spotlight, Ballet Theatre Company is presenting a touring costume exhibition, Through the Tulle, in museums throughout New England. The presentation provides a rare opportunity to learn about costume creation under the direction of seamstress Tracy Dorman and examine some of BTC’s most valued costumes up-close.

Guests tour Hill-Stead’s historic house where the costumes have been laid out in rooms and carefully paired to highlight their respective room’s extraordinary Impressionist art, aesthetic, color palette, and mood. The costumes showcased exemplify the wide range of time period, design, style, and personality that BTC’s costume designers have mastered while outfitting dancers from productions of The Nutcracker, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Don Quixote. While in residency at the Hill-Stead, BTC will include a few additional costumes from its production of The Nutcracker to decorate the house.

Take a virtual tour of the full exhibition here.

A Natural Parterre: An Environmental Garden Art Installation by Bob Chaplin

July to December 2019

Photographs by Bob Chaplin unless otherwise noted.


A New Site-Specific Artwork at Hill-Stead

In the fall of 2018, landscape artist Bob Chaplin began the installation of A Natural Parterre on the grounds of Hill-Stead Museum. Through this unique, site-specific artwork, the artist hopes to initiate a dialogue between ‘nature’ and man’s involvement to try and ‘tame’ nature. The installation is situated in the large meadow below and to the north Hill-Stead’s historic 1901 Colonial Revival house. It can be viewed from the museum’s west lawn and as part of Hill-Stead’s established, mowed, walking-path system. The parterre is designed to be experienced up-close and visitors are encouraged to walk through it.

The concept of the formal garden dates back to medieval times with gardens designed by monasteries for medicinal and herbal plantings, and later on with European palaces, manor houses and private estates. The initial idea of the French parterre garden, with carefully designed plots and walkways, was to present an artistic pattern when seen from above. This installation will examine and carry on the tradition of the formal garden, but with a twist.

The geometric garden design of A Natural Parterre is approximately 136 feet by 64 feet with pathways currently defined by wooden stakes and twine. The outlined garden sections between the pathways will not be planted like a traditional parterre and will not be mowed. As the grass begins to grow this spring, only the defined pathways will be mowed, providing increasing contrast against the unmown areas of the installation. Plant species will naturally come and go in the unmown areas, aided by the wind, birds and seed-carrying mammals. New seeds deposited by nature will gradually add diversity to the parterre, offering a visual progression from annuals to perennials, to shrubs and trees. Once the mowed pattern is established, the stakes and twine currently visible will be removed.

It is imperative that I encourage the general public and local students to observe the processes of change within the project. The process of observation and documentation of the seasonal changes over time are fundamental to the experience and understanding of this project. It is an integral part of the art I create. I look at it as a slowly evolving, long-term performance.

— Bob Chaplin

The museum’s grounds are open to the public year-round at no charge, and free parking is also provided, offering numerous opportunities for no-cost public viewing and interaction with the project as it naturally evolves.

Bob Chaplin moved from England to the United States in 1986. He was an adjunct professor at UCONN/Storrs, and at the University of Hartford’s Hartford Art School, and has lectured at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven. He was an Artist-in-Residence at the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, New York and Weir Farm in Wilton, Connecticut. As well as many printmaking awards, he received two Polaroid Corporation Bursaries and a Connecticut Commission of the Arts Bursary.

Chaplin’s work is represented in many collections throughout the world including The Tate Gallery, London; Art Institute of Chicago, U.S.A.; Stedlijk Museum, Holland; National Museum, Warsaw, Poland; Museum of Modern Art Library, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art Library, New York; Getty Research Institute Library, California; The British Museum, London; Victoria & Albert Museum, London; The Arts Council of Great Britain; The British Council; The National Gallery Library, Washington, D.C.; New York Public Library; Yale Center for British Art, New Haven; Museum of  Contemporary Art, Skopje, Yugoslavia; Stavanger Faste Galleri Permanent Collection, Norway and Nordnorske Kunstnersenter, Lofoten, Norway.

Diamonds in the Rough: Golfing at Hill-Stead

June 17 – November 4, 2018

Explore the game of golf as it was played at the turn of the 20th century and enjoyed by the Pope family. View vintage golf equipment, artifacts, clothing and art on loan from the United States Golf Association Museum, Connecticut Historical Society, Fairfield Museum & History Center and a private collector. An audio component will present a first-person account of golf through the eyes of Alfred Pope, drawn from archival documents. Outdoors, view a recreation of a period tee.



From Page to Stage: Broadway Costumes from the Goodspeed Musicals Collection

September 21, 2017 – January 1, 2018

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This special exhibition of Broadway costumes throughout the historic house is on view from September 21 through January 1, 2018. It honors the Pope Family’s enjoyment of literature, poetry and live performances, particularly theater and opera.

The time period of the shows featured mirror the years 1901 to 1946 when the Pope family resided in Farmington and features vignettes of costumes with accessories and archival ephemera. View magnificent costumes from shows such as Showboat, Anything Goes, Pirates of Penzance, Carousel, and Kiss Me, Kate, as well as lesser-known productions. Original theater programs on loan from the American Musical Theater Collection at Yale University Library and period sound recordings will add an extra dimension to this unique experience throughout the museum.

In partnership with

Presented by

Elizabeth Ferry Speer Foundation

Boundless: Altered Books in Contemporary Art

June 16 – September 4, 2017

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Boundless presents contemporary art inside Hill-Stead’s period rooms for the first time

In celebration of the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival’s 25th Anniversary, the historic Libraries will be transformed into a contemporary sculpture gallery to showcase Boundless: Altered Books in Contemporary Art, guest-curated by Carole Kunstadt, a graduate of the Hartford Art School. Installed among the many rare first editions and early volumes in the Pope family’s personal library, it is an exhibition of altered books by three contemporary artists: Carole P. Kunstadt, Chris Perry and Erin Walrath.


Boundless presents three unique approaches to transforming and exploring the malleability of the form, creating new structures and experiences of the codex. Using found books as their medium, the artists give new life, meaning and relevance to the source materials. Through each artist’s process of deconstruction and recreation, the pages and spines are layered, cut, stitched, molded, stacked, drilled, shredded, woven and gilded. In re-imagining both the content and the context the resulting works reshape our relationship with books. they entice us into a world intriguingly familiar yet previously unknown. The written texts are re-imagined into a boundless world of new associations, altered memories and rekindled responses.

Associations abound when viewing the altered books, rekindling intimate imaginings, sensorial responses to the books’ physicality and cherished memories of personal attachments to books.

Contemporary Art in Context at Hill-Stead

While the Modern Art of Alfred Pope’s day and Contemporary Art of the 21st century appear to be worlds apart, both are grounded in the principle of venturing beyond accepted norms and attempting to convey an understanding of the times. Modern Art referenced the past and with this reference and appropriation, it attempted to understand the “present time” of a century ago. Contemporary art also aids in understanding the present that today.

Alfred Pope was drawn completely to the then-radical works created by the French Impressionists and during his lifetime continued to stay abreast of the evolving art world. While Pope did not venture to collect works of the subsequent “isms” such as Post-Impressionism, Expressionism or Fauvism. However, he did view such works and we can surmise he did so with an open mind. In the last year of his life, 1913, Pope attended the International Exhibition of Modern Art in New York City, commonly known as the Armory Show. Here he would have viewed artworks on the cutting edge. Among the featured works was Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, once referred to as “an explosion in a shingle factory.” While we do not know precisely what Pope thought of his experience at the exhibition, we do know that he hoped a young friend, also an a art collector, would be able to see the show before it closed.

Had Alfred Pope lived a few generations later, would his Hill-Stead of the late 20th and early 21st century have included an altered book as sculpture amidst his other treasures?

About Hill-Stead’s Historic Libraries

Like all private libraries, the one at Hill-Stead tells us about the people who lived in the house, where the books so clearly illuminate both their owners and the times during which they lived. These volumes, like the house itself, combine nostalgia for the past with concern for the problems engendered by the industrial development which made the house and collection possible. The lives the Pope family led – from New England Quaker simplicity to Midwestern prosperity and European influence in the first generation, to Theodate’s progressive and wide-ranging awareness of her times in the second generation – mirror American influences during the mid-nineteenth century through the years of the Second World War.

More than 3,300 volumes of books are contained within Hill-Stead and represent literary classics, important first editions, and works on specific subjects such as art and architecture, politics and reform, travel, world history and spiritualism. Most of the book collection is housed in two period rooms known as the First and Second Libraries. Highlights of the book collection include a first edition of Francisco de Goya’s The Disasters of War, published in 1863 in a limited edition of 500 copies and containing 82 engravings; a first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses, published in 1922 in a limited edition of 750 copies; Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1755; John Ogilby’s America, Being the Latest and the Most Accurate Description of the New World, published in 1671; and sets titled The World’s Best Literature, Dictionary of Authors, and History of English People.

Featured Artists

Boundless, Carole P. Kunstadt, Sacred Poem XI

Carole P. Kunstadt, Sacred Poem XI, 2015. 24-karat gold leaf, paper, thread, gampi tissue, 7.5 x 8 x 1.5 in.

Carole P. Kunstadt dissects, stitches, weaves and gilds book leaves savoring the aged qualities of the paper and text while reminding one of the personal associations to knowledge and history, and the passage and compression of time. Intimate in scale and intention the sculptural objects are a vehicle for the exploration of life’s vulnerabilities and a platform for sanctity and contemplation.



Boundless, Chris Perry, 92 Ripples well

Chris Perry, 92 Ripples well, 2011. Paper, fabric, gel acetate, mirror, 3 x 21 x 21 in.

Chris Perry‘s book constructions elegantly invite us into an ordered, fluid, textural and structural experience. Cascading paper, layered or spouting from a stack of volumes, mimics and implies the focus on water and our environment. Reductive and additive elements find a balance in Perry’s works suggestive of the balance needed on Planet Earth.




Boundless, Erin Walrath, Consumed

Erin Walrath, Consumed, 2013. Book covers, archival glue, wooden drum, 22 in. diam., 12 in. deep.

Erin Walrath‘s nest-like forms entice as well as excite the eye with their organic shapes thick with fragments of font, text, fiber, color in partly recognizable book covers and spines. One finds a refuge in their densely-layered and textural structure; as well as a joy in discovering these hybrid forms.

Boundless is exclusive to the Hill-Stead Museum and is guest curated by Carole P. Kunstadt in collaboration with Melanie Bourbeau, Curator & Director of Interpretation and Programs and Susan Ballek, Executive Director, Hill-Stead Museum.