Many years ago, I had a professor, Hans Richter, who had been a famous German avant-garde filmmaker, one of the founders of the Dada movement during World War I. He had just finished a surrealist movie called “Dreams That Money Can Buy” featuring all his New York refugee buddies including Max Ernst and Piet Mondrian. I saw it again recently and it was no where near as interesting as the first time around, mainly because his techniques were subsequently copied by everybody from TV advertisers to Madonna, and are now ‘old hat.’
But the topic of Dreams has intrigued me and I’ve gone back to a little notebook I once kept near my bed where I wrote down dreams. Like everyone else I know, I find it almost impossible to recall them, even the exciting ones that leave you shaking. I once asked my husband, a Clinical Psychologist, how I could remember them and he suggested the notebook. Unfortunately, by the time I managed to get awake enough to locate the book and find a pencil, the dream had evaporated, never to be remembered. I did, however, manage to write a few dreams down, but re-reading them today was not a pleasant experience. Some of the dreams I wrote down were unintelligible but most of them dealt with the ghosts of the past and the loss of people I loved: my husband, my parents, my closest friend. They all seem to take place in a gray zone, ostensibly that time between sunset and darkness in a time of year I hate: cold, late fall, before the snow arrives
In most of the dreams, I’m usually in a familiar place, either downtown Stamford or in New York City where I grew up. In the first dream I recorded, I am on a street corner on West Main Street in Stamford, a run-down part of town, I am searching for my husband, worried about him, trying to bring him home. (He was actually very sick at the time). I find him standing alone at a bus stop in the darkness, waiting for a bus (a metaphor for the ship that takes us out of this life?) and I try to persuade him to come home. “I have to go” he protests but I pull him into a nearby bar, one of those grim, dimly-lit places where shadowy figures hang out. That’s all I remember. The dream took place perhaps forty years ago but reading about it now, even after all this time, makes me cry.
What’s interesting at this point is the impact dreams are having on my latest paintings. I’ve always been able to dig into my subconscious and “abstract” the visual world, but the latest pieces are more surreal. They are based mainly on drawings I did in NYC many years ago from my daughter’s 11th floor window. While everything looks familiar, it’s familiar the way it is in a dream: gray and moody, re-arranged, transformed from life into art. I think Professor Richter would have liked them.