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.
“I was standing on a ladder painting a large [American] flag,” says Chapline of the dream. “The stars resembled exploding bombs; the stripes, missiles. A skeleton’s head emerged from the war machinery. When I awoke the next day, I sketched the flag in my journal, and then I made a small painting from the drawing/dream.
“For me, the flag painting symbolizes 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.
In “They Never Stood a Chance,” a seven-foot-tall installation inspired by a dream, artist Jennifer Lugris envisions a metaphor for the North Korean government’s treatment of its people.
“When I was a child, I watched my parents stack receipts on a paper spike at their dry cleaning business,” remembers Lugris, a first-generation American. “In mid-2017, I started having a recurring dream about life-sized paper spikes, except instead of paper, clothing was spiked through and stacked tall, towering over me,” says Lugris.
“As I walk through and around the installation, I am reminded of the lives of my North Korean family, and I continue dreaming of the day the border will open and we will reunite.”
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.