"Sally Promey's inquiry into the role of an exceptional series of Shaker drawings played at a moment of spiritual crisis in two, mid-nineteenth century New England communities critically engages current issues in the study of visual culture: what do images do; how do they work; what needs do they fulfill; just what is their 'power'? Her compelling case study joins fundamental concerns of art historians with those of students of religion and history illuminating there by the ways in which discipline based modes of inquiry can bridge disciplinary boundaries. By means of air exacting examination of the drawings as the site of both expectation and encounter, Promey successfully situates these Spiritual Spectacles at the meeting point of the 'inner' and the 'outer' eye." - Linda Seidel. "An important study of a very unusual set of religious documents, a collection without any parallel among other American sects. Promey has brought to her work an excellent sensitivity to the religious issues involved, keen sight and powers of observation, and a very creative interpretive framework." - Stephen J. Stein.Among the deservedly well-known works of art produced by the Shakers are many religious drawings and paintings produced under inspiration by members of the community. These drawings were intended to enhance the spiritual vision of the community and to allow all to view the things of the spirit. They functioned as 'spiritual spectacles'. In pictures of celestial places, objects, and people, viewers could see spiritual things as though possessing 'corrected' spiritual vision. "Spiritual Spectacles" explores this neglected but illuminating aspect of Shaker visual culture. Sally M. Promey submits these remarkable works of art to careful and sustained visual analysis and locates them firmly in their appropriate religious and cultural contexts. She traces the movement from vision to image within Shaker spirituality and demonstrates the essential continuity between visionary experience and visual image. She explains how Shaker image-makers attempted to reconnect the earthly community with heaven and its inhabitants and to restore the zeal and personalities of earlier times.An important work of art criticism, "Spiritual Spectacles" also adds an important voice to the interdisciplinary dialogue between the history of art and the history of religion.
Spiritual Spectacles by Sally M. Promey was published by Indiana University Press in March 1993. The ISBN for Spiritual Spectacles is 9780253346148.