WITCHES an exhibition of photographs by WILLIAM MORTENSEN

RAYMOND BUCKLAND'S MUSEUM OF WITCHCRAFT AND MAGICK and Stephen Romano Gallery are thrilled to announce they will be collaborating on an exhibition of vintage photographic works by WILLIAM MORTENSEN (1897 - 1965) entitled "WITCHES" at the Museum's Cleveland Ohio new location.

featured by HI-FRUCTOSE Magazine

William Mortensen Left: "ISIS" caption on verso reads "With the first dawning of written record, the cow represented the fecundity of Nature. In the age-old temples of Egypt, Isis, the moon-goddess, was worshipped in the form of a woman with a cow's head. Decapitated by her son, Horus, the sun-god, she received from Thoth a cow's head as a substitute. It is not unlikely that the thread of a race memory linking the moon and cows persists in the children's rhyme of the cow jumping over the moon" Right: "JEZEBEL" caption on verso reads "JEZEBEL, the gorgeous daughter of Biblical record, bathed in the milk of a heard of five hundred animals which her retinue drove in her train. Her beauty was the wonder of Palestine, and her alabaster skin was written of by the scribes as "whiter than the snow-clad peaks of Annan."circa 1926 photograph. All images are courtesy of Stephen Romano Gallery.

The exhibition will feature many previously unseen works along with some of Mortensen's most well known iconic occult themed photographs, which Huffington Post declared as "Some of the most beautifully terrifying images ever made".

The exhibition will open August 3 and continue through November 3, 2019.

The exhibition features an online and PDF catalog with text by renowned Swedish occult writer and mage Idlu Lili Regulus, whose sold out book ‘Hekate the Crossroads’ Dark Goddess’ has received high acclaim..

Steven Intermill, Museum Director of the Buckland Museum of Witchcraft and Magick says: "One of the goals for the Buckland Museum moving locations was to have room for a rotating exhibit space, so when Stephen Romano approached us about a collaborative show we were naturally intrigued - so much we may have even howled a the moon!"

"The Mortensen photos depict a supernatural world rarely seen, where witches not only exist in the shadow but radiate within the light. His genius techniques enhance reality, bringing to focus the liminal space that esoteric imagery needs for success."

Born in 1897 in Park City, Utah, William Mortensen was a self taught photographic artist who along with the actress Fay Wray made his way to Hollywood in 1921. There he worked with such notable directors as Cecil B Demille, Tod Browning, John Griffith Wray and Ferdinand P. Earle as still photographer, and costume and mask maker. He was given a whole floor at the Western Costume Company to work in and used the resources the perpetuate his own art. His fascination with occult subject matter began when he saw the film "Haxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages", a 1922 Swedish-Danish documentary-style silent horror film written and directed by Benjamin Christensen.

William Mortensen's was highly sought after as a photographer in Hollywood until 1929, when a scandal involving his relationship with Fay Wray was the subject of an article in Motion Picture Magazine, he was forced to leave Hollywood and relocate his practice to Laguna Beach, where he open the Mortensen School of photography, and took the opportunity to develop his techniques of manipulated photography, publish a dozen books on various subjects of photographic techniques and philosophies, and attracted several thousand students from all over the world.

Despite his successes, Mortensen was engaged in a public feud with Ansel Adams, who called him "The Anti-Christ", and as a result his acknowledgement as an artist was relegated to less than a footnote, and Mortensen sadly died frustrated and obscure in 1965. It is only in the past 15 years or so, since the advent of digital photography, that William Mortensen has been recognized as a seminal American artist, and in 2014 the late Adam Parfrey's Feral House published a book "William Mortensen: American Grotesque" which increased Mortensen's visibility by orders of magnitude, and William Mortensen now is recognized as a national treasure, the status he rightfully deserves. In 2018, William Mortensen's first solo exhibition outside of the USA was mounted in Tasmania at the Dark Mofo festival in Tasmania, attracting over 6,000 visitors over 10 days.

The inclusion of William Mortensen in our current understanding of the history of photography marks an end to the long-term injustice done to the man and germinal work.

"Anathematized, ostracized, and eventually purged from the dominant narratives of 20th-century photography due to the biases of a small but influential cluster of historians, curators, and photographers, Mortensen plunged into an obscurity so deep that by 1980 most considered him unworthy of even a footnote. Yet the approach to the medium that he advocated, under the rubric of "pictorialism," included practices central to photography of the past four decades: events staged for the camera, image text combinations, photomontage, "alternative processes, and more. " - A.D. Coleman, excepted from "William Mortensen Reconsidered" published by Stephen Romano Gallery 2014

"If he were resurrected today, almost 50 years after dying a marginalized and maligned figure in his field, photographer William Mortensen would surely have no trouble finding work or creative kindred spirits. His influence and affinities to his work are evident across a range of art and popular culture. Techniques he pioneered for manipulating photographic images--a practice for which he was once disparaged--now have digital equivalents that are widely employed and accepted in photography. A few decades of hindsight reveals him as a visionary and a consummate artist ahead of his time. In addition to his prescient technical innovations, his photographs prefigured the imagery and visual mood that have become the stock in trade for horror films, horror comics, bondage porn, sorcery-themed fiction and all things goth." Tom Patterson excerpted from "Beauties and Priests Among Other Beasts" published by Stephen Romano Gallery 2014

William Mortensen left to right "The Old Hag" 1928, "Preparation for the Sabbath", 1928, "The Old Hag with the Incubus" 1928 photographs. "The preparation for the Sabbot has been a favorite and frequent theme of the artists who have dealt with this material. The young witch, eager and exuberant, is being rubbed by the old witch with a magic ointment. By the virtue of this salve, according to tradition, the witches were enabled to fly to their assemblies." - William Mortensen 1935. All images are courtesy of Stephen Romano Gallery.

On the subject of the grotesque and occult themes in his art, William Mortensen remarked in 1935 in his book "Monsters and Madonnas": "This world is not peopled with the butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker, nor any of their female relatives, but with the half-glimpsed figures that loom through the mists of our dreams and with troglodytic terrors that reach out toward us across the abyss of centuries. Herein lies the reason for the equivocal effect of grotesque art on many people: the material is unfamiliar, and, by ordinary standards, unpleasant; yet it calls forth a deep instinctive response. Thus they are torn between repulsion and attraction. I have noticed many times that people, coming by chance on a specimen of grotesque art in a gallery, do what the old-time movie directors called a "double take." That is, they pass over the picture with a casual glance, turn away from it, pause suddenly with a startled expression, and then return to it with in-credulous intentness. The subject matter, at first meaningless, suddenly strikes home."

Mortensen continues: "Everything exists through its opposite. For pictures of calm and tranquil beauty to have any meaning, even for "sweet" pictures to have any meaning, it is necessary that the grotesque and the distorted exist. Perfection of form is significant only because the malformed exist also. Those who turn away from the grotesque are losing the richness and completeness of artistic experience."

"A very fruitful field for grotesque art is afforded by the manifestations of witchcraft and demonology. Fear, secrecy, and converse with evil powers, were characteristic elements of this mysterious cult which is as old as man. These elements are of the very substance of the grotesque. The early wood engravers did much with themes derived from witchcraft. Brueghel has worked with this material; so also has Goya; but little has been done with it by photographers. Over-consciousness of the literal limitations of their medium has perhaps held some back from entering this unrealistic and imaginative field. But this very quality of unrealism should be a challenge to a photographer who wishes to push beyond the conventionally accepted realism of the camera."

William Mortensen Left: "Madam LaFarge" " 1931, Madam LaFarge was a witch in the mid 1800's in Minnesota who could transform into a young seductress for the purpose of sex with Satan. While being attacked by priests with knives dipped in holy water, she died of a heart attack screaming in agony and as a crowd watched her body was consumed by flames. "The Old Hag" 1926, The Witch is shown with a skull and her scying bowl, the practice of looking into a suitable medium in the hope of detecting significant messages or visions. "The Heretic" 1926, the model is the well known silent screen star Betty Compton. All images are courtesy of Stephen Romano Gallery.
William Mortensen "Untitled" (The Witch Lady Suite, Courtney Crawford as Morgan le Fay) 1924 - 1926 photographs. Morgan le Fay is a powerful enchantress in the Arthurian legend, her role as a goddess, a fay, a witch, or a sorceress, generally benevolent and related to King Arthur as his magical saviour and protector.. It is said that Morgan concentrates on witchcraft to such degree that she goes to live in seclusion in the exile of far-away forests. She learns more spells than any other woman, gains an ability to transform herself into any animal, and people begin to call her Morgan the Goddess. All images are courtesy of Stephen Romano Gallery.
William Mortensen excerpts from "Untitled" (The Witch Lady Suite, Courtney Crawford as Morgan le Fay) 1924 - 1926 photographs. All images are courtesy of Stephen Romano Gallery.

The exhibition will feature a newly discovered suite of unique prints acquired from the estate of William Mortensen's first wife Courtney Crawford, exhibited in it's entirety for the first ever. The suite, entitled "The Witch Lady" depicts Mrs Crawford as Morgan le Fay (meaning "Morgan the Fairy"), who is a powerful enchantress in the Arthurian legend. Early appearances of Morgan do not elaborate her character beyond her role as a goddess, a fay, a witch, or a sorceress, generally benevolent and related to King Arthur as his magical saviour and protector. Her prominence increased over time, as did her moral ambivalence, and in some texts there is an evolutionary transformation of her to an antagonist, particularly as portrayed in cyclical prose such as the Lancelot-Grail and the Post-Vulgate Cycle. A significant aspect in many of Morgan's medieval and later iterations is the unpredictable duality of her nature, with potential for both good and evil.*** .

William Mortensen Left "Circe" 1932, photograph. Circe is a goddess of magic or sometimes a nymph, enchantress or sorceress in Greek mythology. Circe was renowned for her vast knowledge of potions and herbs. Through the use of these and a magic wand or staff, she would transform her enemies, or those who offended her, into animals. Right "Initiation of a Young Witch" 1928 photograph. All images are courtesy of Stephen Romano Gallery.

The exhibition will also overlap with the newly created Cleveland Photo Fest which runs September 1st - October 30th.

For further information and visuals please contact:

Steven Intermill, Museum Director of the Buckland Museum of Witchcraft and Magick at bucklandmuseum@gmail.com

Stephen Romano Gallery at romanostephen@gmail.com

the definitive introduction. "Monsters and Madonnas: The World of William Mortensen" 1963 Directed by Richard J. Soltys, Earl Stone.

Tuesday-Saturday 12pm – 7pm. Join us at 2155 Broadview Rd., Cleveland, OH 44109 in the Old Brooklyn neighborhood. Admission Adults $7 Seniors $6 (60+) Kids $5 (3-12) All prices include admission tax


William Mortensen "Ho Ho Off To Sabbath" 1928


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