Dreams and the Imagination at Merced College Art Gallery

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Dreams and the Imagination examines the role of dreams and imagination in the artistic process. 

Featuring artwork by:
Nora Akino, Shunsuke Ando, Sandra Beard, Martha Castillo, James Claussen, Cindy Davis, Sherana Harriette Frances, Thomas Goglio, Yuji Hiratsuka, Debra Jewell, Joanna Kidd, Cynthia Milionis, Carol Montgomery, Michelle Murillo, Margaret Niven, Laurel Prieto, Luz Marina Ruiz, Masha Schweitzer, Maryly Snow, Herlinde Spahr, Jami Taback, Ginger Crawford Tolonen, Frances Valesco, Kim Vanderheiden, Pete Villaseñor, Lila Wahrhaftig, Monique Wales, Monica Wiesblott

Many artists use their technical skill to create imagery that examines their own dreams and translates those images and ideas directly onto the page. Masha Schweitzer’s photopolymer etching Flight, in which people are flying and birds are earthbound, was inspired by dreams of flying. While looking at a photograph of acrobats taking their bows, Schweitzer was struck by the idea that their body positions gave the appearance that they could take off any moment. Ginger Tolonen’s monotype Descending XIII is also inspired by dreams of flying and diving deep into the water.

Sherana Harriette Frances often uses imagery from her dreams and has found that they serve as a vehicle for concerns and sorrows that have found no other voice. Frances’ hand colored lithograph Threads of a Dream examines how the language of dreams is enigmatic, locked in an obscure vocabulary behind fences through which we reach for threads of meaning. Nora Akino’s work examines how the objects in our dreams may take on the shape of the qualities associated with them. Her feeling that trees are benevolent, protective figures creates an image of trees sprouting angel wings. Herlinde Spahr’s image of a feather held in place with roots captures the tension, at the height of the imagination, between the desire of the mind to soar unfettered, and the need to remain grounded.

Other artists address the concept of dreams as aspirations and goals. Monica Wiesblott’s untitled linocut plays with the idea that the “grass is always greener”. The expressions of two winning beauty queens show that dreams of greatness are not always as they seem. Fixed Boundary by Jami Taback addresses dreams about the issues of borders, searching for a way to open the world up, to take down walls. Kim Vanderheiden’s work also uses the metaphors of walls and windows, fences and freeways, bridges and language, to focus on the concepts of isolation and connection. Vanderheiden asks, “Are we prompted to address our personal tensions with isolation and connection in ways that are profoundly different than in the past?” Maryly Snow’s Tangled Climate Measurement Time is a dream of the jumbled oppositional forces of rational measurement and impulsive randomness impacting climate change. Michelle Murillo’s glass screen print DNA Map: In the Letters and Numbers, Europe is an attempt to reconcile her identity with information revealed through DNA testing. This previously unknown information has allowed her to dream about who her ancestors were in the process of reforming her identity.

Other works in the exhibition are inspired by nature and landscape. Soberanes 1 by Debra Jewell addresses the sense of place found between memory, dream and imagination. Drawn from the Soberanes Canyon along the Big Sur Coast, a forest moves between darkness and light. The transitional space between foreground and background, sunlight and shadow, recalls a dream while it shifts the focus towards imagination. Other works, like Dream Ore by Margaret Niven, Garden of Dreams by Luz Marina Ruiz and The Trickster—Yosemite by Monique Wales are inspired by natural forces and the natural environment. Niven’s work uses the mining metaphor of a silver planetary image as the parent rock from which our treasured dreams are refined. Ruiz’s work has shifted from observational landscape studies to interior landscapes. Working from memory she uses organic shapes and forms that speak of the natural environment. Monique Wales creates a portrait of The Trickster. Native American culture is rich with the stories of Coyote, the Trickster, who uses creativity and imagination to bring wisdom to the community.

Pete Villaseñor, Martha Castillo and Laurel Prieto address the role of the imagination in myths and storytelling. Villaseñor’s work imagines Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent. As depicted in the print, Quetzalcoastl serves as the intermediary between the cosmos and our universe. Martha Castillo’s clay monotype Short Stories #1 is the first in a series of prints about storytelling. Each rectangle represents a book, or a page from a book, a separate story. Colorful and complex patterns of each rectangle illuminate the myths, fables, and dreams we tell. In the telling we learn to interpret our lives. Laurel Prieto’s collages translate indescribable sensations into tangible, malleable material. Resulting collages are a reincarnation through remembrance and imagination, emphasizing a non-linear understanding of time and storytelling.

For Cynthia Milionis the very process of printmaking is “an imagining taking shape”, meaning that her images come into being through the printmaking process. Initial inspiration is derived from imagery in her environment. How images interact with each other, the ink, the press, and the atmosphere, drive the final realization. Every work is an experiment; an imagining taking shape. 

Dreams and the Imagination
Merced College Art Gallery
September 26, 2016 – October 20, 2016
Opening Reception: September 28th, 6pm-7:30pm
Gallery Hours:
Monday – Thursday 9:30-11:30am & 12-2pm
Merced College Art Gallery, 3600 M Street Merced, CA 95348
Images left to right:
Shunsuke Ando, The First Contact, etching with chine colle, 6.75” x 5.5”, 2015
Michelle Murillo, DNA Map: In the Letters and Numbers, Europe, glass screen print, 15” x 15” x 2”, 2014 (detail)
James Claussen, Anti Gravity, color stone lithograph, 19” x 19”, 2016