Curatorial Projects > Preternatural (2016)


A group exhibition featuring work by Bessma Khalaf, Sarah Lee, Stephanie Metz, Laura Plageman, and Tiffanie Turner.

November 26 - December 30, 2016
Jack Fischer Gallery
San Francisco, CA

The preternatural (from the Latin præter and naturae) is that which appears outside or beyond the normal and natural. In theology, the term preternatural is often used to distinguish marvels or deceptive trickery, often attributed to witchcraft or demons, from the divine and sacred power of the genuinely supernatural. Upon the arrival of early modern science, the concept of the preternatural was progressively used to refer to abnormalities and strange phenomena that seemed to transgress the normal working laws of nature, but which were not associated with magic or witchcraft. The terms preternatural and supernatural originally acquired their distinct definitions within the ancient religious movement of Gnosticism, but since have been incorrectly equated as interchangeable phrases.

Pre-12th Century Gnostics made the distinction between the natural, the preternatural, and the supernatural. Natural describes all that which belongs to the material world and adheres to its strict physical and scientific laws. Preternatural is the action that goes beyond the structure of the nature of the material universe. Supernatural is the action that goes beyond any created nature, belonging only to the divine.

The work in this exhibition occupies space and time suspended between the mundane and the miraculous, simultaneously evoking and inhabiting the preternatural. Depicting and embodying flora, fauna, and landscape that appear to exist beyond the natural, the work also comments on a number of pressing issues of our time, from global warming and rising sea levels, to genetic mutation and bioengineering, to survival and adaptation. And survive and adapt we must.

- Kevin B. Chen