Each night as I sleep, I evidently watch five or six short films.
Almost all of my focus has traditionally been on my experience as a viewer, as the experiencer of the dream. But inescapably, I must also be executive producer, casting agent, set designer, screenwriter, and director.
Who, after all, writes these dreams?
Who decided to make the alley walls of brick, and slicken them with damp? Who populated that airline terminal? Who carpentered that precipitous stairway to nowhere?
And beyond that, why upon wakening do I experience that almost palpable amnesia – the dream I was just immersed in disappears as swiftly as cold water from a skillet. From the captivating storm of the dream, I am suddenly marooned on the shores of wakefulness, with even the most compelling details of the dream slipping away into a kind of enforced oblivion.
Why am I writing about dreams in an opening blog about painting?
Because our subconscious is active throughout the darkness -- and aware of vastly more than any consciousness can comprehend. People deprived of dream sleep become quickly psychotic. Whoever conjured the dream evidently felt that it was something I had to experience. Whoever wrote the script apparently recognized that some shards of memory are too sharp to be experienced directly – so they were cocooned in safer symbols. And whoever produced the deep green thrust of the dream wanted to be sure that the experience was absorbed, yet not fully remembered.
I trust this subconscious as if it were my own inner higher power. I feel its guiding influence – in my decision-making, my intuitive discomfort, that sense of déjà vu that has no earthly correlate.
During the weeks when I was painting my mother’s portrait as she succumbed to Alzheimer’s [above], I began to paint her naked, age-swept, forlorn along a shingle of seaweed. Throughout this painstaking process, my imagination was repeatedly ignited by an image of a yolky, raw egg – and a needle. I could see no correspondence between my sense of my mother and this image, gooey, glistening, and vulnerable. In an odd but unmistakable way, that was why I trusted it. In among the tangles of kelp, I felt a compulsion to include a torn wrapper from a BandAid, a reaching hand, and even a cigarette butt -- though my mother never smoked.
I don't know why certain imagery seems so darkly and persistently dictated. But neither do I know why I dream those short, dark films.
Yet I feel that distrusting or ignoring this voice is forsaking something old, wiser, and more surely guiding than anything my conscious mind might superficially select.