A Dream Play

The origin of this picture dates from a very evocative scene of Iranian Shiites at a mosque in Damascus that I had seen in the New York Times.  Usually newspaper photographs are straight-on journalism.  This photograph had genuine mystery and drama.

I was moved by the image of the woman on the left with her moon-like glow.  I imagined that I was her and that the personages close by in the photo were people in my life, in and out of time and focus, alive and not alive, older and younger.  In my vision, all of these ‘visitors’ would enter my studio and interrupt me while I was in a deeply focused state.  The only way I could make head or tail of this vision was to relate it to a dream state where irrationality has a certain eerie order. I felt as though I was dreaming and drawing at the same time. 

It was difficult to understand how to construct the composition. Rather than forcing the issue, I pinned the news photo to my bulletin board and waited. I felt that at some moment in the future, the rays and vibrations would bounce out of the photo and I would know how to compose my picture.

It took possibly a year before I actually began to work on this picture.  Shortly after commencing, I described the work to a dear friend of mine. He mentioned Strindberg’s A Dream Play and urged me to have a look. I was deeply struck by Strindberg’s epigraph to his play:


      “   …Anything can happen; everything is possible
and probable. Time and space do not exist; on a
slight groundwork of reality, imagination spins
and weaves new patterns make up of memories,
experiences, unfettered fancies, absurdities and

                The characters are split, double and multiply; they
evaporate, crystallize, scatter and converge.
But a single consciousness hold sway over them
all – that of the dreamer…”


 About two years ago, I encountered the beautiful and evocative poetry of Wistawa Szymborska.  She is a seriously smart woman and her writing is both wise and poetic.


Memory Finally

Memory’s finally found what it was after.
My mother has turned up, my father has been spotted.
I dreamed up a table and two chairs. They sat.
They were mine again, alive again for me.
The two lamps of their faces gleamed at dusk
as if for Rembrandt.

Only now can I begin to tell
in how many dreams they’ve wandered, in how many crowds
I dragged them out from underneath the wheels,
in how many deathbeds they moaned with me at their side.
Cut off, they grew back, but never straight.
The absurdity drove them to disguises.
So, what if they felt no pain outside me,
they still ached with me.
In my dreams, gawking crowds hear me call out Mom
to a bouncing, chirping thing up on a branch.
They made fun of my father’s hair in pigtails.
I woke up ashamed.

So, finally.
One ordinary Friday night
they suddenly came back
exactly as I wanted.
In a dream, but somehow freed from dreams,
obeying just themselves and nothing else.
In the picture’s background possibilities grew dim,
accidents laced the necessary shape.
Only they shone, beautiful because just like themselves.
They appeared to me for a long, long, happy time.

I woke up. I opened my eyes.
I touched the world, a chiseled picture-frame.

Wistawa Szymborska