Paulina Peavy: An Etherian Channeler
In the Mike Kelley Gallery at Beyond Baroque
June 1 - August 14, 2021

Curated by Laura Whitcomb

By appointment only.
Please email to schedule a visit.

In collaboration with Label Curatorial, the Mike Kelley Gallery at Beyond Baroque presents Paulina Peavy: An Etherian Channeler. Curated by Laura Whitcomb, the show is the first exhibition of Paulina Peavy’s (1901–1999) work on the West Coast in over 75 years. Peavy’s path as an artist depended on convening with beings and forces beyond the visible plane to create her work, similar to the artists Hilma af Klint, Forrest Bess, and Agnes Pelton. Peavy’s story is unprecedented among the mediumist artist cannon as she claimed to channel a discarnate entity named Lacamo who “travelled on an etherian ship.” This positioned her as a key emissary of the astroculture age.

Peavy’s roots in California, where she lived and painted from 1923 to 1943, were deeply embedded in the emerging abstract art scene of the 1920s, where enthusiastic explorations of the occult were embraced. A student of Hans Hofmann at Chouinard Art Institute in 1931, she moved with members of the occult-inclined Group of Eight as well as the Synchromists, the first abstract art movement in America and was part of the circle of California’s post surrealists led by Lorser Feitelson. Beginning in the late 1920s, Peavy played a vital role in the emerging West Coast art scene. She established a gallery and showed these artists’ works alongside her own. The gallery was also a school, and salon under her name, where she hosted classes of the foundational Los Angeles Art Students League .

In California Peavy showed at some of the most significant galleries of her time, including the Stendahl Gallery in Los Angeles. She was included in the opening of the San Francisco Museum of Art, and thirty of her paintings were exhibited during the Golden Gate International Exposition of 1939-40, where Diego Rivera exhibited mural work. Peavy had close alliances with muralists such as Orozco, and, like them, shared a fascination with hermetic traditions.

In the early 1930s Peavy became a member of a Spiritual Science congregation (later the Cosmic Unity Church No. 9) led by Ida L. Ewing in Santa Ana. It was there that she first channeled Lacamo, her astrocultural entity. Lacamo revealed layers of wisdom based on a cosmology of 12,000-year cycles with 3,000-year seasons, in the process guiding her to create paintings she often co-signed with Lacamo. In order to channel Lacamo she made elaborate masks that combine surrealist touches with indigenous themes. Peavy masked herself with a composite representation of humanity to communicate with the unseen world. Peavy’s cosmology merged ancient hermetic philosophies with the astroculture age. This exhibition will explore the complex intersection of these phenomena and their foretelling of a utopian future accomplished through the dissolution of gender.

Peavy’s paintings use layering in ways unique to the art cannon. Beginning in the 1930s, each of the multiple layers she added created new layers of meaning over a successive fifty-year timeframe. Guided by Lacamo, each layer symbolically represents a new revelation, thereby activating the viewer’s ability to convene with the unknown. The final layers, completed in the 1980s, present abstracted crystalline formations as a way to equip the viewer with the tools to receive and absorb Lacamo’s wisdom.

Peavy was encouraged to move to Manhattan after the positive response to her 1935 exhibit at Delphic Studios in New York City, a gallery that exhibited work by the Agnes Pelton and other members of the Transcedental Painting Group. She permanently settled there in 1943 contributing to the city’s atmosphere when the Surrealist emigrée community was transforming American culture. Peavy lived and worked in New York until close to the end of her life. She died in Bethesda, Maryland in 1999, at the age of 98 years old, a witness to nearly the entire twentieth century.

This exhibition will be the first showing of her work in California since 1943 and will preview Label Curatorial’s scholarship and research from a forthcoming publication. On display are nine early channeled paintings from the 1930s. These paintings evolved layers over time, until their completion in the late 1980s. Also included are Peavy’s intricate works on paper; these invoke magical writing to present abstract cartographic portals to other worlds. Peavy’s masks, writing, poetry will be on display while her award-winning films detailing the complexities of her cosmology will be playing in the theatre.

A rare book collection once belonging to White Star library from the collection of Bob Fisher will also be presented. First edition books include Manly P.Hall, Annie Besant, Alice Bailey, George Van Tassel and other rare hermetic and astroculture publications. These offer an ontological dialogue with Peavy’s own manuscripts. Another ephemera case assembled by Peavy’s research director on the forthcoming publication Narin Dickerson will also be on display in the book store.

Closing Events:

July 31
Sound Discarnate
Performances after Paulina Peavy

Featuring: Micaela Tobin, Braden Diotte, Zane Reynolds (SFVacid), & David Tibet & Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson's presentation of Harry Oldfield.

DJ set by Greg Bishop

5 pm: Gallery viewing, outdoor reception, & DJ set
8pm: Performances

Free & in-person at Beyond Baroque
Masks required

Join us for an in-person evening of performances by renowned sound artists who work in the hermetic tradition. Sound Discarnate features performances that investigate mediumistic art, astro-culture, and Peavy’s extensive body of work, including her collaborations with the spirit Lacamo. Each artist explores the ways in which modalities of language and communication pervade esoteric art.

The evening also features an outdoor reception, an opportunity to view “Paulina Peavy: Etherian Channeler,” and a live DJ set.

Featured performances

David Tibet & Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson present Harry Oldfield: Crystal, which creates a dialog with the last stages of the spirit Lacamo’s messages for Peavy.

Soprano and Sound Artist Micaela Tobin activates Beyond Baroque’s space with a series of live improvised vocal meditations. These meditations reflect the musicality of Peavy’s cartographic works and the layers of her timeless oil paintings. The performance will culminate in the theater and the live-scoring of a montage of Peavy’s films.

Braden Diotte (collaborator with Faust, Neurosis, EXO//ENDO) presents an instrumental selection from Extraordinary Angels, his telepathic opera based on the history of George Van Tassel and the Integratron.

Sound artist Zane Reynolds (SFVAcid) explores Friedrich Jürgenson’s Electronic Voice Phenomena archive of phantom sound recordings. In the EVP archive, Jürgenson converged and explored phantom sources through self-adapted electro acoustic recording devices.

DJ Greg Bishop will play a set from his archive of rare astro-culture-themed music and recordings.

August 11

In conjunction with the closing of the show, a second evening of performances will take place at the height of the Perseid meteor shower at a private venue just outside Joshua Tree National Park. Details TBA.

Show Press Inquiries:

Paulina Peavy Gallery:

Gallery Appointments:

Gallery Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 12pm to 6pm, by Appointment Only

Special Thanks to Katharine Armstrong and the Paulina Peavy Estate, Andrew Edlin Gallery, the landing, Center for the Arts Eagle Rock and Bruce Lee Books