Séance: Photographs by Shannon Taggart

August 31–December 17, 2021

For the past twenty years American artist Shannon Taggart (born 1975) has documented Spiritualist practices and communities in the United States, England, and Europe. The resulting body of work, Séance, examines the relationship of Spiritualism to human celebrity, its connections to art, science, and technology, and its intrinsic bond with the medium of photography. This exhibition presents forty-seven haunting images from the series, revealing the emotional, psychological, and physical dimensions of Spiritualism in the 21st century. 

Spiritualism is a religion born in nineteenth-century America whose adherents believe in communication with spirits, often transmitted through the figure of a medium who receives psychic messages from the dead. Not coincidentally, photography was invented at the same historical moment, when the new technology was revered for its ability to faithfully record reality. Photography thus became a preferred medium of scientific documentation capable of rendering invisible phenomena visible, such as in astronomical photography, X-Rays, and microscopy. For Spiritualists, photography was a tool for revealing the existence of spirits, but for non-believers the ghostly forms that materialized in spirit photographs proved nothing more than darkroom trickery. While this double-sided coin of belief and skepticism haunts the histories of both photography and Spiritualism, Taggart’s photographs do not take sides. The images that comprise Séance are characterized by open-mindedness and empathy toward their subjects, many of whom are brought to Spiritualism through grief and a desire to reconnect with lost loved ones.

The photographs on display explore the communities and phenomena associated with Spiritualism, including séance circles, mediumship, and the objects and technological devices used to aid communication with spirits. Among the most arresting images are those that chart the artist’s quest to capture ectoplasm, a supernatural substance that is paradoxically both spiritual and material. Often made in darkened rooms, the photographs are characterized by otherworldly blurs, chance flares and orbs, and entrancing portraits cast in glowing colors. Taking on the role of participant observer, Taggart bears witness with her camera to an unseen world of belief lying just beyond the fringes of everyday reality.

Public Program

Artist’s Talk: Shannon Taggart

Thursday October 14, 2021

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Free and open to the public; registration is required. Attendance will be limited.*

*Registration for the in-person event is now full. Please use this form to be added to the waitlist.

This event will also be livestreamed on the UMBC YouTube channel. Follow this link to join the livestream.

Portrait of artist Shannon Taggart

Shannon Taggart is an artist and author based in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. Her photographs have been exhibited and featured internationally, including within the publications TIME, New York Times Magazine, Discover, and Newsweek. Her work has been recognized by Nikon, Magnum Photos and the Inge Morath Foundation, American Photography and the Alexia Foundation for World Peace. Taggart’s monograph, SÉANCE (Fulgur Press, 2019) was listed as one of TIME magazine’s ‘Best Photobooks of 2019.’

This exhibition is organized in collaboration with the Pensacola Museum of Art.

The exhibition is curated by Beth Saunders, Curator and Head of Special Collections at UMBC, and Anna Wall, Chief Curator of the Pensacola Museum of Art.  

The presentation of this exhibition at UMBC is supported by an arts program grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the State of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support comes from the Libby Kuhn Endowment Fund, as well as individual contributions.

Other venues: Pensacola Museum of Art, Pensacola, FL, September 16–December 4, 2022


End of the Road

Photographs by Brea Souders Selected poems by Lia Purpura

Souders began making the photographs that comprise End of the Road in March 2020 while living in rural upstate New York. The black-and-white photographs capture candid glimpses of visitors walking to the cul-de-sac at the end of a gravel road viewed through the mesh of a window screen or through curtains of leaves and branches. Her subjects variously walk, rest, hold hands, kiss, and stop to reflect, completing a series of ordinary actions during an extraordinary year. Photographing these strangers—who became unknowing companions—was an almost daily ritual for the artist, generating creative inspiration during a year spent sheltered in place.

The passage of time unfolds in these photographs through seasonal changes and through the contemplative perambulations of Souders’s subjects. Leaves sprout and sunlight casts bold shadows, while in turn, sweaters and mittens replace airy dresses and shorts. Some visitors return to the End of the Road repeatedly, while others make a momentary, but singular, impression. The photographs thus convey a heightened awareness to one’s surroundings and to nature that has become a common experience during the pandemic. In their intimacy, they express the longing for human connection that has defined our shared isolation. Each photograph is a chance encounter that sparks curiosity about the subject, what brought them to the End of the Road, and where they will go from here.

This virtual presentation features images from End of the Road alongside poems by UMBC writer-in-residence Lia Purpura from her book It Shouldn’t Have Been Beautiful (Penguin, 2015). Purpura has noted of this collection of poems, “I am interested in paying attention to the act of looking itself, an act which is almost always full of contradiction, surprise, and mystery.” This statement could equally describe Souders’s photographs, which, through their clandestine framing and sharp observation, elevate quotidian details to totems of coincidence. Likewise, Purpura’s attentive poems abound with incident, engendering expansive ideas from the brief container of their form. Here, photographs and poems, selected in collaboration between artist and author, walk together in tandem, illuminating shared themes and inviting additional connections and reflections.

*Images and text scroll automatically below. Hold your cursor over an image to pause scrolling and to move backwards and forwards in the sequence.

Public Program

Virtual Artist’s Talk: Brea Souders and Lia Purpura in Conversation
12:00pm (noon EST)
April 22, 2021

Register here (via Webex)

Black and white photo of man in overalls walking down dirt roadBlack and white photo of person in a white dress holding a glass, partially obscured by tree limbBlack and white photo of person walking behind foliageBlack and white photo of person jogging along dirt roadBlack and white photo of young man holding an animal to his chestPoem: Probability Most coincidences are not miraculous, but way more common than we think – it’s the shiver of noticing being central in a sequence of events that makes so much seem wild and rare – because what if it wasn’t? Astonishment’s nothing without your consent.Black and white photo of a man carrying a ladder in natureBlack and white photo of couple kissing viewed through tree limbsBlack and white photo of woman with face obscured by foliageBlack and white photo os silhouette of a figure holding a dog leashBlack and white photo of woman in shorts walking alone on a gravel road; she grasps her arm with her handPoem: Sunday Signs come. For what I don’t know. To be one in a vastness without meaning, except for making something of it, except for it being a conversationBlack and white photo of two women walking down the road; one wears a shirt that says Black and white photo of a group of youthsBlack and white photo of a man walking, wearing american flag print shortsBlack and white phot of a woman walking in shadows of trees and leavesBlack and white photo of two men walking through foliagePoem: Relativity Shade can chill or relieve and sun comfort or oppress, depending on what you need to shed or retain, which is nothing as simple as sin being dark, and grace, light. Filaments in a web can be both invisible and bright. Each thing’s its own partner, each always both, depending on where you stand, not so central, not so always commanding.Black and white photo of a woman standing amidst foliageBlack and white photo of a woman obscured by leavesBlack and white photo of a couple holding hands and walking in natureBlack and white photo of two figures standing on the road looking into natureBlack and white photo of person bent over to look at something in the roadPoem: Red Leaf It’s precious little warmth the trees are giving, muddled with last greens, addled with vines and that red, a new cry at dusk – oh mind where all things freshly darkened meet.Black and white photo of man walking alone in natureBlack and white photograph of man walking on snowy roadBlack and white photograph of two men walking on snowy roadBlack and white photograph of two men walking on snowy roadBlack and white photograph of two girls walking on snowy gravel roadPoem: Future Perfect Where you were before you were born, and where you are when you’re not anymore might be very close. Might be the same place, though neither is as slippery as being here but imagining where you will have been – that point where things land, are finished, over, and gone but not yet.

Brea Souders is a visual artist working primarily with photography. She has exhibited in the US and internationally, including solo exhibitions with Baxter St at the Camera Club of New York, Bruce Silverstein Gallery and Abrons Art Center in New York. She has received a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant, a residency with the Millay Colony and a fellowship with the National Arts Club. Features on her work have been published in the New Yorker, ARTnews, the Jeu de Paume Magazine, and New York Times. Souders’ work is included in many survey publications, including The Photograph as Contemporary Art, Thames & Hudson; Feelings: Soft Art, Rizzoli and Photography is Magic, Aperture.

Lia Purpura is the author of nine collections (essays, poems, translations.) A National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, she is a Guggenheim, NEA, and Fulbright Fellow, and has been awarded four Pushcart Prizes, among others. Her work appears in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Orion, The Paris Review, The Georgia Review, Agni, Emergence, and elsewhere. She is the Writer in Residence at UMBC, and has taught at conferences, workshops, prisons, and in communities and MFA programs throughout the country. It Shouldn’t Have Been Beautiful (poems) and All the Fierce Tethers (essays) are her latest collections.

End of the Road/ Hope

To celebrate the online exhibit of End of the Road and the collaboration between artist and poet, the AOK Library Gallery has produced a limited edition booklet, End of the Road/ Hope. Designed by Peggy Re, the publication features a selection of images from Souders’s series along with a poem by Purpura.

Register here to receive a free copy of End of the Road/ Hope. Booklets will be produced in a limited edition of 500 copies and mailed in May 2021.


Press for Shae McCoy: West Baltimore Ruins

Follow the links below to listen and to read more about West Baltimore Ruins.


Artist’s Talk with Zachary Z. Handler/ ERRANDS in UMBC Magazine

UMBC Magazine features ERRANDS, the first in a series of online exhibits offered by the Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery this spring. The artist, Zachary Z. Handler, will give a virtual artist’s talk for the public at noon on February 18. Read the article.

Virtual Artist’s Talk: Zachary Z. Handler
12:00 noon
February 18, 2021

Register here (via Webex)

Sign language interpreter will be provided
Sign language interpreter will be provided
Still life of flower in vase, iPhone with woman on screen, and projected image
Zachary Z. Handler, Abhilasha. Delhi, India. 2020, from series ERRANDS

Charlesmead Initiative

In 2019, the Library Gallery received funding from UMBC’s Charlesmead Initiative to create an arts education program for K-8 Baltimore City youth. Curators began a collaborative project with museum educator Willa Banks to develop a curriculum emphasizing hands-on learning and engagement with original artworks through the gallery’s exhibition program and in the holdings of UMBC’s Special Collections.

During the spring 2019 semester, 90 students from Liberty Elementary and Frederick Elementary schools visited the gallery for an interactive tour of the exhibition Antonio McAfee: Through the Layers, Pt. 2 led by the gallery curators. Students enjoyed putting on 3D glasses to view McAfee’s work, saw rare nineteenth-century photographs from UMBC’s Special Collections that the artist manipulates in his digital photographs, and created collage portraits to take home with them. They shared what they learned over snacks, reflecting on what photographs can tell us about history and how portraits reveal (and conceal) personal identity.

Due to COVID-19, the final two class visits scheduled for March and April were canceled. Curators are now adapting the curriculum for the Spring 2021 semester.