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Psychosexual Fantasy Art Recasts the Salem Witch Trials

An ancestor of one of the women murdered in Salem reimagines one of America's darkest moments.
Ghost Bitch Altar, 2016. Images courtesy of the artist

Loud moans reverberate down the long and narrow corridor of Freight + Volume gallery. The walls are covered in drawings and sculptures exhibiting psychosexual and violent tendencies, dark humor, and a deep resentment. For the intense and sometimes disturbing show Ghost Bitch U.S.A., Rebecca Goyette transforms into her ancestor, Rebecca Nurse, who was hung during the Salem Witch Trials, and engages in an “erotic historical roleplay” as well as a commentary on the current political climate. Through drawings, sculptures, and video, Goyette rewrites history, using sexuality as a powerful force.


Along the right wall are a series of pencil drawings depicting scenes of highly sexualized violence. On the left wall, small sculptures and paintings depict similarly disturbing juxtapositions. A doll’s head, with pins stuck in its face, sits on top of a penis. A butt, called T-RUMP, wears a wig and a “Make America Great Again” hat. Red Sox paraphernalia is common here, suggesting that rowdy sports fans create a modern day Massachusetts mob.

Little Mustard Man, 2016

The two films, Ghost Bitch: Arise From The Gallows and Ghost Bitch U.S.A., tackle the horrors of the Salem Witch Trials and the misogyny which still permeates culture today. In Arise From The Gallows, modern-day witches, along with Goyette, playfully enact the stereotypes of the hysterical woman, entrapping unwitting puritan men. In U.S.A., the personal is explored alongside a humorous take on modern politics. Both films are told as a feminist fantasy, centering Goyette’s experiences, as she directs and acts in both.

The dark energy of Ghost Bitch U.S.A. somehow seems to communicate the deeply disturbing impulses behind the Salem Witch Trials. Entwining femininity and violence, it inverts and reflects upon misogyny and sex. Tracing and complicating history, Goyette embodies her murdered namesake not as a solemn exercise, but as a raw and often obscene investigation. Goyette reimagines the execution of women during the Salem Witch Trials as a feminist fantasy, placing the women’s sexuality in power and domination.


Ghost Bitch: Time Travelling U.S.A

Ghost Bitch U.S.A. is open until September 11th at Freight + Volume Gallery in New York.


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