Virtual Visit: Magic + Mystery
Text and Images Courtesy of Phoenix Art Museum

“There is some confusion as to what magic actually is…I believe that magic is art and that art, whether it be writing, music, sculpture, or any other form, is literally magic.”  – Alan Moore

The quote above, from the writer of The Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and Swamp Thing, goes on to explain that like magic, art uses symbols, words, and images to challenge or alter our perspectives of the world, each other, and ourselves. This week’s PhxArt Virtual Visit asks you to suspend all doubts and explore this idea with us through numerous mystical and mysterious artworks from across our collections. We also provide a Deep Looking sections on the work of Christopher Bucklow and recommended viewing that explores magic in both everyday acts and realms unknown.

Explore these artworks from the Museum’s contemporary, Latin American, American, Asian, and European collections, and consider how they create visual illusions, attempt to transport viewers to alternate dimensions, or simply elicit a sense of wonder, delight, and mystery.

Top left: Philip C. Curtis, Fools Rush In, 1952. Oil on canvas. Gift of Gayla April. Top right: Suzuki Shuho, One of a pair of screens, scene from the Noh play Okina , Taisho period, 1912-1926. Ink and color on rice paper mounted on black lacquer wood frame with green silk brocade border. Gift of Roger Dunn. Bottom left: Gregory Crewdson, Untitled (House in the Road), 2002. C-print mounted on aluminum. Museum purchase with funds provided by Contemporary Forum (Artpick 2003). Bottom right: Vernon Fisher, Piece #4 shelf for Rules for Maintaining Balance, 1991. Oil, blackboard (slating), wood. Gift of David Kluger, by exchange.


Deep Looking: Guest (M.B., 3:14 p.m., 19th August 1995) (1995) by Christopher Bucklow

We don’t know about you, but the radiant artwork above always reminds us of David Bowie’s Starman, waiting in the sky. Gilbert Vicario, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs and the Selig Family Chief Curator, provides insight into how the mystifying work was created.

“Christopher Bucklow’s enigmatic and luminous contemporary photograph GUEST (M.B., 3:14 P.M., 19th August 1995) is part of the artist’s ongoing series entitled Guest (1993-present). Using a pinhole camera of his own making and featuring 25,000 apertures, Bucklow creates unique cibachrome chromogenic prints of the silhouettes of family, friends, and fellow artists who appear in his dreams. These subjects are drawn using multiple solar images directed through Bucklow’s camera, and the resulting photograms are made by tracing the silhouettes of his models onto large sheets of aluminum foil, pricking them with thousands of small holes, and then laying sheets of photo sensitive paper and exposing them to the sun. Bucklow’s interest in personal mythology, Jungian dream psychology, and metaphor is exemplified in these surreal and electrically charged images.” – Gilbert Vicario

Practical Magic

1998 | Romantic Comedy

Sally and Gillian Owens are young witches desperate for love, but the men they fall for are doomed to die thanks to a generations-old family curse. When supernatural forces and the curse threaten to end their family for good, the sisters must use all of their powers to protect each other and their loved ones.

Death Becomes Her

1992 | Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Sometimes, drinking a magic potion that promises eternal youth isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.


2014 | Horror

Amelia’s son Samuel is plagued by dreams of a vicious monster, and when an unsettling storybook mysteriously appears at their home, Samuel is convinced the story’s creature is what will kill them both.

Spirited Away

2001 | Animation

Often heralded as one of the best animation films of all time, Spirited Away tells the story of 10-year-old Chihiro and her parents who wander into a holiday resort for gods, witches, and other supernatural beings with no clear path for escape.