Awakened in Art: Dream and art tell difficult political truths
Like surrealism, the political-art movement opposing totalitarianism in the aftermath of the horrors of WWI, the power of art and dreaming in these turbulent times holds the possibility for social change.
Last week, less than a month before the 2018 midterm elections, a cadre of Northern California artists shared their art and held a dialogue to raise awareness about U.S. domestic and foreign policies in the month-long mixed-media exhibition “Wake-Up! The Political Power of Art and Dreams,” held at the Claudia Chapline Gallery in Stinson Beach on Oct. 28, that now continues online.
Works in that show included Flag of Death, created by artist and gallery owner Claudia Chapline, which graphically depicts the reality of U.S. foreign policy. Chapline says the piece came from a dream she had on March 11, 2006, the third anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. “For me, the flag painting symbolises the discrepancy between American ideals and manifest American policy,” says Chapline.
Santa Rosa artist Marsha Connell’s “Dream Vessels” collage works, featuring landscapes spiked with light, were inspired by dreams Connell had a month after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. She dreamt that women writers, artists and poets were brought to observe preparations for the first Persian Gulf War when a voice boomed out, “The women soldiers will go first!”
“I felt a distress so profound there were no words for it,” Connell says.
A friend suggested the dream meant the artist was to bear witness, and the collages became her way to communicate and begin a healing process that ultimately brought her peace.
She calls the collages “Dream Vessels,” because each dreamlike picture contains a vessel. “The vessel offers the possibility of transformation, hope and reconciliation of opposites,” she says.
Joyce Lynn is founder and editor-in-chief of Plum Dreams Media. See works from ‘Wake-Up! The Political Power of Art and Dreams’ at plumdreamsmedia.com.
THE POLITICAL POWER OF ART AND DREAMS by Joyce Lynn, Exhibition Curator
For centuries, dreams have guided nations toward (or away from) their destinies. Dreams have revealed the divine plan for countries, cultures, and citizens. Think of Joseph’s biblical interpretation of the Pharaoh’s dream proscribing public policy to prevent the Egyptians from starvation. Or consider the Roman philosopher Cicero’s Dream of Scipio imparting the essence of statesmen-like virtues.
These dreams and dreamers show the profound power of remembering, understanding, listening to, and expressing our dreams. Our nighttime dreams upend government, corporate, and media propaganda. Once inner wisdom is tapped denial is impossible; positive action manifests.
Such timely, insightful sometimes witty wisdom gleaned from dreams and depicted by artists can lead to personal and planetary well-being. Dreams give a picture of reality. Dreams enable us to see clearly, revealing hidden truths. When we listen to our own dream guidance, we the people can reclaim our power to govern for the public good.
Like surrealism, the political-art movement opposing totalitarianism in the aftermath of the horrors of World War 1, the power of art and dreaming in these turbulent times holds the possibility of social change.
Art and dreams are conduits to truth, paths to healing and transformation. Art and dreams wake us to reality and response.”
“Wake-Up! The Political Power of Art and Dreams,” a mixed media exhibition, was an exhibition at the Claudia Chapline Gallery, Stinson Beach, California, during October, the month before the 2018 Congressional elections to create dialogue and raise consciousness about U.S domestic and foreign policy. It continues online to expand its reach at PlumDreamsMedia.com.
WAKE-UP! includes works derived from dreams by Northern California artists: Dream Vessels by MARSHA CONNELL; Flag of Death and other images of war by CLAUDIA CHAPLINE; works by artist-activist RICHARD KAMLER; FrankenBush, commissioned by PLUM DREAMS MEDIA; They Never Stood a Chance, an installation of remembrance and survival by JENNIFER LUGRIS; and a dream about Donald Trump’s Art of the Deal with God captured by NICOLE FRAZER.
WAKE-UP! is an activity of the 50 State Initiative of ForFreedoms.org, a platform for civic engagement, discourse, and direct action for artists in the U.S.
A percentage of sales from the exhibition will be donated to Bay Area peace candidates.
(While this online exhibition is being updated, contact Plum Dreams Media info@PlumDreamsMedia.com, 415-267-7620 for more information.)
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Claudia Chapline cchapline.com
On March 11, 2006, the third anniversary of the US invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, artist, activist, and gallery owner Claudia Chapline of Stinson Beach, California, dreamt:
“I’m standing on a ladder painting a large (American) flag. When I awoke the next day, I sketched the flag in my journal, and then I made a small painting from the drawing/dream. The stars resemble exploding bombs, the stripes, missiles. A skeleton’s head emerges from the war machinery.
“For me, the flag painting symbolizes the discrepancy between American ideals and manifest American policy.”
The Claudia Chapline Gallery and Sculpture Garden has shown Northern California contemporary art since 1987, a cultural crossroads for visitors to the Pacific coast and to residents of Northern California.
A month after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, artist Marsha Connell dreamt that women writers, artists, and poets were brought to observe preparations for the first Persian Gulf War from the bottom of a hill. A voice boomed out: The women soldiers will go first!!
This view that appeared in a dream began a healing process that ultimately brought her peace.
A friend suggested the dream meant the artist was to bear witness. Before this dream, Connell felt artists lacked power to elicit change. Then she wondered, “Could I create art about the war, but not beautify the destruction?”
Connell cut up magazines and photos, made two collages and duplicated them on a color copier to allow travel as letters to her daughter in Jerusalem for her junior year. This shortly became an aesthetic choice as she discovered how the printmaking process enhances the visual unity of the images, montaged from found sources. When she contemplated her images, she says, “They shocked me. They moved me so much. There was a lot of darkness but also hope. They had hope for the world.”
Collages, dark landscapes spiked with light, became her way to communicate. “I felt a distress so profound there were no words for it,” Connell says.
She calls the collages “Dream Vessels” because each dreamlike picture contains a vessel — a pot, a vase, a ship. In her poem, “Dream Vessels,” Connell writes: “The vessel offers the possibility of transformation, hope/reconciliation of opposites…Vessels poise/between her story and history, bridging nature and the human-made, bridging hope and forces of destruction.”
“Somehow, through doing this, I felt I was finding a way to bring hope together with darkness,” she reveals. “As the work told me its stories, it was bringing more sense to the world. The collages were my healing. Gradually, I found my own center again and my own peace through doing this.”
The Dream Vessels series took on its own momentum, now almost one hundred fifty images, printed in editions numbered up to twenty-five. Like intimately scaled murals, the collages incorporate stories about family, culture, history, and the environment, including the devastation of ongoing wars, oil spills, firestorms, the disasters of Three Mile Island and September Eleventh, as well as simple pleasures and life’s mysteries, dance, music, motherhood. They also function as homages and memorials.
The content emerged from dreams, and the process of creating them is like dreaming in the day, elusive and speaking in metaphor, gradually revealing layers of meaning to both artist and viewer.