Sleep Art

Artists use dream images to build community

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The strange lyricism and vivid storytelling we experience in dreams have long supplied artists with materials for their work and metaphors for the half-unconscious way that artistic creation unfolds. In two of the more recent rapprochements between dream and art, however, dreams are being shared under the banner of very 90s concerns: building community, getting a feel for cultural complexity, and empowering individual creativity.

In the current issue of Creation Spirituality (Summer 1995), Jeremy Taylor introduces the work of Rick Veitch, whose self-published comic book, Roarin' Rick's Rarebit Fiends (named after Winsor MacCay's proto-surrealist turn-of-the-century comic strip Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend), is a sort of dream clearing house in graphic form. Veitch invites readers to send him dream narratives, which he then reproduces either as written stories or cartoons. Veitch's cartooning is conservative, commercial-comic style -- no Raw magazine-inspired postmodern wildness here -- which may be just as well, since the goal of his 'world community dream journal' is to include the greatest number of dreamers, young and old, hip and square.

There's an even greater inclusiveness in the dream work of globe-trotting photographer Wendy Ewald, who for 25 years has helped children around the world create photographs that recount their dreams. A portfolio in the premiere issue of the photography-oriented arts magazine DoubleTake (Summer 1995) reveals haunting differences between the dream lives of, for example, children in Mexico -- who love to include fanciful devils in their photos -- and young black South Africans, who often make stark, undreamlike images of everyday violence. (Poignantly, Ewald notes that Third World children who must work long hours to help support their families have difficulty remembering their dreams, but 'children ...who could attend school and had time to play spoke of active imaginary lives.') Clearly, dreams can reveal far more than private obsessions and Freudian commonplaces; these artists suggest that they can be a sort of psychic glue to bind diverse human beings together.

For More Information


Wendy Ewald, 'Dreams,' DOUBLETAKE (Summer 1995). Subscriptions: $32/yr. (4 issues) available from the Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University, 1317 W. Pettigrew St., Durham, NC 27705.

ROARIN' RICK'S RAREBIT FIEND. Subscriptions: $24/yr. (6 issues) available from King Hell Press, Box 1371, West Townsend, VT 05359.

Web Sites
Dreams (lots of links to dream-related sites on the Web)

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