A Journal of Art Criticism
Published by the South Bay Area Women's Caucus for Art
Volume 5, Number 1, 1997
Dreams and Fantasies
Terri Cohn . Elizabeth Gómez . Christine Laffer
Lisa Lodeski . Leah Lubin . Demetra Paras
Cynthia Rostankowski . Barbara Leventhal Stern
What is the point of doing an issue on fantasies and dreams? After all, they are just spun sugar. Well, I believe they contain some truths that are otherwise unattainable. We can get close to these truths, but the path is labyrinthine, and it takes work to get there.
Fantasies and dreams are, as Barbara Leventhal Stern suggests in this issue, a way for artists to get at buried material. She tells how in the process of her own artmaking she allows her mind to let hidden associations come into play. And there is a payoff; as Terri Cohn suggests, dreams and fantasies (in her case, dreams of flying) can lead to art which is liberating.
This can work for us as art appreciators as well. There is a dreamy way in which we can approach art which heightens its personal meaningful-ness for us and helps us to reach the prize at the center. I like what W.J.T. Mitchell (Picture Theory, 1995) tells us about Roland Bartheson looking at photography. Barthes resisted a purely rational reading but looked instead for the punctumthe stray, pointed detail that pricked him, opening the photo into the realm of (his own) memory and subjectivity. Barthes insisted on his own personal experiences of photographshow they ring up memory and reveal unsuspected undercurrents. He treated photographs like elements in a dream.
His technique may be extended beyond photography to an apprecia-tion of painting, drawing, short-story writing, and even to a way to read criticism. It is a matter of letting the artor the articleor the interplay of text and image (as in Christine Laffers palimpsest,) tell you its story. Only it will be your story, some personal truth that up till now has lain hidden away. Lets try it!
Take Lisa Lodeskis excellent analysis of two harem paintings. Do you see what she sees? Or do the paintings trigger a memory of the past, say of an illustrated cigar box that sat on your grandfathers desk? And, how do they enlarge that emotional memory? Similarly with Leah Lubins short story. How does it reverberate in connection with your own experiences of life, love and artists dreams?
Inside this issue, Elizabeth Gómez challenges people of the Western world to draw on their own myths, just as Latin American artists draw on theirs. Demetra Paras gives us a start with this in her brief history of the uses to which dreaming has been put throughout medical history, as far back as ancient Greek times, but also connecting with an aboriginal concept of dreamtime. Similarly, Cynthia Rostankowski summarizes the progress of myth and encourages us to recognize its truth.
I think we each have our own myths, which we can reach in our dreams or in the fantasies and dreams of other artists. But it takes a willingness to solve our own riddles, to thread our way through our own labyrinths.
Dreams and Fantasies
(detail) gratefully acknowledges support from the Arts Council of Santa Clara County PARTNERS Pooled Funds including support from the City of San José.
Editor: Karen Haas
Associate Editor: Christine Laffer
Art Director: AlayneYellum
Promotions: Sarah Ratchye
Website: Saelon Renkes
The South Bay Area Women's Caucus for Art is an organization of 200 arts professionals. Our purpose is to educate the public about the contribution of women to the arts and to ensure inclusion of women in the history of art, while respecting differences in age, religion and cultural heritage. Women and men interested in membership please call 408-266-0650. Please send letters to Editor, 181 South 21st Street, San Jose, CA 95116.