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Dreams and Nightmares


Acrylic on canvas​

In this dream I was tasked with carrying a full glass of water on a tray while walking through my house, down the stairs, and down the block on my way to the subway to work.  I knew if I spilled even one drop of water the world as we know it would be destroyed.  This painting depicts the dreaded “what if?” moment when a single drop of water escaped the glass and the world around me starts collapsing.


Acrylic on canvas


Last night I dreamt I was in a huge loft in a warehouse somewhere in Eastern Europe.  I was talking to a woman from the Ukraine, who told me she was my cousin.  She was an artist, and made sculptures of found objects and clay.  We had a very involved conversation about the meaning of art and culture.  She struck me as very intelligent but somewhat crude and edgy.  She made me nervous.  She had dark red, straight, medium length hair, heavy eyebrows (red) and wore heavy black eyeliner.  I sensed an aggressiveness in her that was unpleasant.  She seemed like she had lived a tough life and doesn’t take any B.S. from anyone.


The loft was dark, dank, dusty, and musty, and was lit with bare light bulbs.  The windows were papered over.  There was a hot plate with some leftovers and a bottle of wine on the table.  I was puzzled that she was my cousin because I had never heard of her before, and I couldn’t remember how I got to this place.


Acrylic on canvas


I found myself in the building where I shared a wood shop with another artist twenty-five years ago.  As I approached the old shop from the stair hall, I was startled to see through the back door someone moving around in the office area.  I could not see his face.  He was rustling through some boxes of papers.  He seemed to be looking for something.  As I walked passed the door I looked to the left, and noticed that a movie projector in another suite was creating the image of the person in the office.  It wasn’t real.


I opened the door and found the old shop completely transformed.  What had once been an old decrepit workshop was now an architecturally designed, modernist interior, complete with built-in furniture, tiered seating levels, and indirect, soffitted lighting.  My old partner was also transformed – he was now ten feet tall, muscular and lean, bejeweled with gold and diamond earrings and facial piercings.  I immediately identified him as the Hindu god of destruction, although in the dream his name (Lord Shiva) had escaped me.


He sat in front of a stack of my old paintings.  Much to my horror, he was un-stapling the canvasses from their frames.  I demanded to know why he was doing this; he responded: “I am destroying all of your work.  It is meaningless, so there is no reason to keep it around anymore.”  I was outraged, but didn’t know what to do or say.  Hypnotic energy waves emanating from his mind prevented me from taking action.


I started thinking about the fact that I have dedicated my life to recording memories of things and places that no longer exist, and now those recordings are being destroyed.  However; I still have the photos of the recordings in my computer, so maybe they’ll survive after all.  As I contemplated the unreality of digitally recorded information, I woke up.



Afterthought:  What we know from being artists is that creativity grows out of destruction, so maybe this dream is not a nightmare but a message of hope?

THE TRAVELER    1987  

Acrylic on canvas


This painting is based on a repeating dream that I had for several years after I moved to New York. In the dream I found myself back in my freshman class at St. John’s Prep School, re-taking the same classes I had taken fifteen years earlier. Suddenly I got out of my chair and announced to nobody in particular that I was thirty years old, I have an MFA from Yale University School of Art, and I don’t need to be in high school sun set and the scene got stranger and stranger. In the distance I could see flames engulfing the St. John’s Prep School. The flames were clear and smokeless. The casted-concrete buildings were unaffected. Nor were the trees affected by the flames. I kept on walking further down the road into the black jungle. Then I woke up in a cold sweat.any more. I walked out of the school and proceeded to walk down the road, trying to hitch a ride from the occasional car that drove past.  I walked a long time, but no one gave me a ride. It was dusk. I noticed that the median strip on the highway was getting wider and more exotic. There were many large African beasts, such as zebras, water buffalo, and rhinoceroses in the thick brush. I started getting nervous as the sun set and the scene got stranger and stranger. In the distance I could see flames engulfing the St. John’s Prep School. The flames were clear and smokeless. The casted-concrete buildings were unaffected. Nor were the trees affected by the flames. I kept on walking further down the road into the black jungle. Then I woke up in a cold sweat.


After I made the painting, I stopped having the dream.


The details of the painting show the prep school as a one story structure, with its rolling roof as designed by architect Marcel Breuer. The Science hall and parking lot are shown on the upper left, just above the face of the old quadrangle. Two students are having a smoke behind the quadrangle, while a group of students on the other side of the building play a game of soccer. I tried to capture the beauty of the trees and plants as I remember them.


Acrylic on canvas


For over twenty years I have had repeating dreams featuring houses that I own in the dream world. Some of the houses are luxurious mansions, with many large rooms and hallways, hidden stairways and secret rooms that I use as art studios. There are chandeliers, marble base boards, fabric walls, and beautiful moldings. The dream always involves me travelling through the mansion, discovering many new places that I didn’t know about before. It is an enjoyable dream, although there is an underlying, vibrating sort of anxiety which accompanies me wherever I go in it.


Acrylic on canvas     


In the other type of dream, I have a totally decrepit apartment in a non-descript,  washed up old industrial city somewhere, with leaky sinks, broken windows, broken radiators, a filthy small kitchen, cracked plaster everywhere, and horribly painted walls. I am usually married in these dreams to someone that I cannot identify, and we sometimes have children. Sometimes I am married to more than one woman and I have a separate house for each family. I am always broke and unemployed in these dreams, and am wearing worn out old work clothes and broken down shoes. The apartment door is never well secured; there are large gaps around the door so strangers can easily peer inside. There is no privacy and no security. The house is barely furnished so there is nothing to steal anyhow.


Acrylic on canvas


Based on a very old drawing, this painting depicts a place that I discovered while rowing in a large lake.  In my dream the rocky isles were carved out with beautiful interiors behind thick glass picture windows.  The rooms were brightly lit and filled with people.  We could see each other but could not hear each other.  The residents of this place had no privacy; everything was exposed.


Acrylic on canvas

I dreamt I was on a fantastic cruise ship in Scandinavia.   The ship was approaching a huge floating palace.  The king of Iceland helped me off the ship and showed me around.  The whole place glittered with gold and precious stones.  There were domed ceilings, chandeliers, and Greek columns all around.  We sat in two thrones.  I asked him why they built this beautiful palace.  He responded:  “We built it for you!”


Acrylic on canvas


I was walking by Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis and I ran in to D.B.  She was strolling with her mother and her identical twin brother.  He looked exactly like a beautiful woman but he was a man – a very emaciated, weak, exhausted man.  D.B. introduced us.  He then told me that he was so weak that he could no longer walk.  He asked me to carry him on my back, which I agreed to do.  He was light as a feather, limp, and practically lifeless.  We walked slowly along the beautiful lake shore, taking in the beautiful fresh air and sunshine.  Ducks and geese glided along in the water; pan fish swam among the weeds, rooting out bits of food.  


Acrylic on canvas


Upon arriving home from the hospital I was glad to back be in my own place again.  I slept long in my own bed.  I had a strange nightmare in which I was being attacked by a metal man, gold in color, armed with a large sledge hammer and a pick axe.  He fell to the ground.  I grabbed the pick axe and started hitting him with it, but I was weak, and the blows only made small dents in his golden metal skin. He laughed at me and acted like he was being tickled.  I was trying to kill him.    

WEDDING DAY 1     2015    

Acrylic on canvas


I found myself in a small town on a Sunday, wandering around.  I went into a social club/restaurant type house.  It was a wood clapboard structure with a big front porch and tall windows.  The people were discussing an upcoming holiday, “Wedding Day.”  They celebrate that day by having a group wedding where several couples all get married at the same ceremony, and have a group reception party afterwards.  I didn’t know anyone, but felt comfortable and at home.  A tall woman with curly light brown hair and glasses walked in and asked if I would marry her on “Wedding Day.”  I thought to myself, “This is insane – I don’t even know her”, but that didn’t stop me from saying yes.  

That evening I left the town, returned home, and went back to my usual routine at work.  I thought about the upcoming “Wedding Day” holiday and looked forward to it.  During the next few months I did nothing to prepare for the wedding, nor did I contact my new fiancée.  I did make a quick visit to my mother in Minnesota.

I told her I was going to get married to a woman that I’d only met for a short hour.  I told her I didn’t know anything about her.  From her hospital bed my mother responded; “Well, you always did whatever you wanted and never listened to anyone’s advice, so I am not going to offer any now.  Good luck!”

I returned home, and a few weeks later the big day approached.  I packed my suitcase and took the bus to the town.  The bus dropped me off in the wrong spot so I had to detour through a dense forest, climb some big hills, and cross a raging river.  When I got to the town the river turned into a small creek, which was filled with fish.  I saw two deep ocean oarfish swimming with the other fish.  I tried to catch them but they wouldn’t take my bait.  I went to the social club.  The people showed me my room.  I opened my suitcase and realized I had not packed my good suit.  Instead I put on a pair of dirty yellow trousers, big old work boots, and a t-shirt.  I started rubbing the work boots down with a wet paper towel to make them look shiny.  When I was done getting dressed I looked in the mirror and noticed I was wearing one white sock and one black sock.  After pondering this for a while I decided it was OK.  When I realized I was without my good suit, I thought that wearing old work clothes would be better because the work clothes would give an honest representation of who I really am.

Then a woman came up the stairs and asked me who I was.  I introduced myself, and she said she was my new mother-in-law.  She was dressed in blue jeans and a t-shirt and appeared younger than my new fiancée.  She kissed me on the cheek and gave me her blessing.  She said she was surprised I was marrying her daughter because we really didn’t know each other.  I responded, “Yeah, but she seems like such a nice girl.”

Other people came into the room to make sure I was ready for the ceremony. A guy knocked on the back door loudly.  I opened the door and he came in with a tray of food.  It was raining hard on that side of the house, but was sunny in the front.  I went down the stairs to the big room where the wedding was to take place.  My fiancée was walking towards me.  We looked at each other.  Then I woke up.


Acrylic on canvas


There were two giants.  One, a bearded man dressed in a shirt made up of many different patterns and fabrics, was seated next to a house.  The other, a totally furious woman, was screaming and berating him from the other side of the house.  Lots of small people were sitting on the roof and climbing the house.  All of the small people had gravity defying powers and could walk up the sides of buildings as insects do. I was with a group of guys.  We were struggling with a long fire hose, trying to bring it through a wooded area.  Then, I dropped the hose and even though it was the middle of summer, joined some skaters on a frozen outdoor ice rink.



Acrylic on canvas


Another major repeating dream, very terrifying and troubling, this one’s impact on me lasted for several years.  The action always took place near familiar bodies of water – lakes, rivers, and small waterfalls in Minnesota that I frequented often.  The dream always started out with me walking along the shore, minding my own business.  In the water were dozens and dozens of huge marine monsters.  They could only see me if I looked at them.  I would walk along, not looking for a while.  But then I would sneak a peek out of the corner of my eye.  When the monsters saw me looking at them, they would begin to chase me, usually up a waterfall, which was impossible for me to ascend.  This would typically be the wake up point.  But, if I drifted back to sleep, I would find myself in a peaceful night scene, in a small row boat in the lake where the monsters lived.  I would never see them at night in the dream. However, at daybreak, after I got out of the boat, I would walk up to the high cliffs along side the lake and crawl out on my belly to the edge of the cliff which overlooked a secret part of the lake that no one knew about except me. 

When I looked down, I would see thousands of sea monsters, all piled up on each other, rolling and gnashing their teeth.  The sight so terrified me that I would grasp the edge of the cliff, squeezing as hard as I could, frozen with fear.  Then my head would turn bright red like a strawberry.


This was the most persistent repeating dream I had to date.  After I finished the painting I stopped having the dream.  I was struck by the realization that by painting my dreams I could gain control over them.  As a result I felt personally empowered and convinced that the power of art was unlimited.

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