Photo Credit: Jennie Anne Benigas



March 2010

"And all my days are trances,
And all my nightly dreams
Are where thy grey eye glances,
And where thy footstep gleams -
In what ethereal dances,
By what eternal streams."


Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) from To One in Paradise

Dreams: 2D/3D - An Upcoming Exhibition

Dear Reader,

If you haven't visited Providence, Rhode Island and its vibrant art scene, I highly recommend it. One of the key players in making art an important part of the Providence landscape is the owner of Gallery Z ( His gallery is "the granddaddy of Federal Hill art galleries" and "one of the busiest, thanks to both its energetic owner, Berge Ara Zobian, and to an ever-changing array of exhibits featuring works by local, national and even international artists" (The Providence Journal, 5-14-2009).

I have enjoyed having my work in Gallery Z since 2005, when I answered an ad in ArtNews for an upcoming small works show, and he accepted three of my paintings.

On April 3rd, 2009, I received a phone call from Berge. Our conversation left me jumping up and down with excitement, because he had invited me to be the other half of a summer 2010 duo exhibit with Julian Penrose, a sculptor who creates thoughtful and beautifully designed assemblages.

Summer 2010 may have seemed far way at the time, but experience has taught me that "far away" has its way of shrinking fast, so I put the notes from our conversation into a folder. Every time I thought of something---a question, a theme idea, anything at all, I jotted it down. It helped to prepare me for the inevitable decision-making and future meetings necessary to bring an exhibition to life.

Fast forward to solid planning stage, which was a mid-January meeting in Providence with Berge and Julian. I brought a CDROM of about 30 paintings I thought appropriate, as well as some of my latest work. The meeting was lively and productive. We firmed up dates for the exhibit (July 7 - August 28), reception dates, and WOW! a duo poetry reading/artist's talk on Saturday, August 7th!

It felt great to be treated so professionally. Thank you, Berge and Julian.

We discussed possible titles; Julian and I agreed to collaborate on one that would compliment both of our styles. We did that and agreed upon Dreams - 2D/3D.

The next step is a challenge: writing an exhibition statement for Dreams - 2D/3D. How does the title fit this work? Why "dreams"? How can dreams have dimension (2D/3D)? What words will engage and tantalize people who come into the gallery and/or visit the web site?

Random Thoughts and Research
I sat down with books and paper and began to make connections between the title and the work. This is what I wrote: The word dream conjures up multiple meanings and seems appropriate to describe artwork in this exhibition. Dreams are close to imagination, that ability to create thoughts and images we think are unlike any previously known to others. Dream images are created in an unconscious state; art is created in an imaginative state while awake.

Dreams in 2D and 3D! What a leap (or act of faith in the artistic process) to say that something as ethereal as a dream can have dimension. It seems to contradict a dream's essence, that is, it has no essence. Dreams are frail in the face of reality.

Most of us have experienced dreams while sleeping and forget them soon after waking.
What can dreams mean to an artist and poet? Lots of ink has been spent on teasing out the possibilities. Rather than describing myself as a surrealist, I admit to being a person with the spigots of imagination wide open. The traditions of surrealism have given me a set of concepts to work with, the ability to accept fiercely different juxtapositions, permission to take an image, either painted or written, as far as it will go. I know about surrealism and apply its principles, but I do not think about it. In fact, my mantra while painting and drafting, is paint (or write) and don't think, which was Paul Cezanne's advice.

Definition of surrealism from The Yale Dictionary of Art and Artists - "Breton overcame his fellow-writers' reluctance to accept the possibility that art could be Surrealist…He also asserted the centrality of automatism as giving access to imagery, and this led to giving renewed priority to marks and signs and to the use of found or random textures…Detailed accounts of real or invented dreams…tie art back to the 19th century naturalism…" (page 673).

Dreams - a series of thoughts, images and sensations occurring in a person's mind during [REM] sleep.

Do the colors and textures in Julian's assemblages and in my paintings represent dreams? They are disparate shapes, sizes, lines, textures that did not exist before they were assembled by us. We draw from old lives to create new ones.

How can a viewer connect to a piece that sprang out of someone else's imagination? We share a language of shapes, forms, lines, colors and textures. We offer our work and hope for a transaction between the viewer and the art object.

Next, I tried making a list.
Dreams -
have no substance (art does)
are individual inventions (art is)
invite analyses (art does)
seem rooted in emotional, rather than intellectual, response (some art does)
seem real, but are not (art is real)
are a perceived experience (art is and isn't)
are not all that interesting to some (art, too)
are confusing (art can be)
are clear (art can be)
are frightening (art can be)
happen in the mind (where response to art resides)
happen in sleep (art is accessed while awake)

I looked at Sigmund Freud's take on dreams. He thought of them as "day residue" often instigated by the preceding day's events. He insisted that both poetry and dreaming are nothing more than "defensive measures designed to substitute pleasure for reality" [Art & Dreams - Answers]. That could also be an answer to the age-old question: What is art?

I read poetry with dream references. This stanza from Edgar Allen Poe's "To One in Paradise" caught my eye:
And all my days are trances,/And all my nightly dreams/Are where thy grey eye glances, /And where thy footstep gleams-/In what ethereal dances,/By what eternal streams.

In the next few weeks, I will struggle to write a clear statement. At this early drafting and messy thinking stage, it is important to hold back the editor and search for the meaning of Dreams - 2D/3D. Wish me luck.