Painting Dreams by Ron Singer

In the first stage of the dream, I was in a lecture hall, looking from the back toward a large oil painting on the front wall. The only other people present were a husband and wife, whose three dogs (a toy bull, a pittish bull, and a big, shaggy dog) frolicked beneath a table. No lecture was in progress; I was the only “student.”

Thinking this was the big new painting (54’’ high by 102’’ wide) that had taken my wife almost two years to complete, I went up for a closer look. Then, in dream logic, to get an even better vantage, I crawled under the table, where the dogs pestered me until their owners called them off. Peering upwards, I saw that the painting was not my wife’s, after all, but a comparably large, swirly one, with many circular objects and a palette of pinks and other pastels.

My wife’s painting is a triptych, full of diagonals, regular and irregular rectangles, and other recurring shapes, including several small amorphous ones visible only under close scrutiny. Although the painting is strongly abstract, its cones, cylinders, broken frames, vortices and machine parts mimic the bombed-out look of the detritus outside her studio windows. There is a full spectrum of bright color, including black, but the amorphous shapes are all gray or what is called “non-photo blue.” These amoeboids seem to spy on the painting’s bolder features. They have a snuck-in quality.

There is also a narrative element, “reading” from the viewer’s left to right, with diagonals linking the three parts, and with a progression from slightly blurred shapes to fully defined ones. The overall effect is of orderly mayhem on multiple, colliding planes. A friend who spent several minutes scrutinizing the painting said it felt like a Pisgah view of urban jumble. To my mind, it is an intensely dynamic, complex, coherent, museum-quality (whatever that means) work of art …

At that point, I woke up, but after a quick bathroom break, I hurried back to bed and willed myself back into the dream. Although the subject –painting– remained the same, the scene had completely shifted, as in a film cut. I now found myself in the office of an art teacher at a school where I used to work. Present, as well, was another former colleague, who is also a friend. (Both are women.) Crowding the walls of the small office were a host of beautiful, mid-sized pictures. Each comprised multitudes of thin, scratchy lines in ethereal colors.

In this phase of the dream, I was enthusing to my ex-colleagues about the two large pictures, trying to persuade them to arrange a show. While the art teacher sat at her desk and my friend stood to one side, both of them silent and impassive, I jabbered away: the pictures were of similar size and quality; there would be a pleasing contrast between their colors, and between the linear narrative and swirling circularity –blah blah blah …

In the midst of this jabbering, I was awakened by yipping dogs outside our bedroom window. At my side, my wife slept on. I had dreamt the first part of the dream just before seven a.m., when I crawled out of bed to go to the bathroom. (Perhaps, the dogs beneath the table had been my attempt to fend off the yipping.) The second part ended at 7:32.

I began the day exhilarated by the beautiful double dream. After a quick review, to fix the details in memory so I could write them down later, I thought of firing off a letter to a newspaper, complaining about some things that had been bothering me lately. At this point, my wife woke up.

“How did you sleep?” she yawned. Over coffee, I recounted the double dream. Although she looked interested, she made no comment.

8:15 a.m. Do we ever dream about anyone but ourselves? After all, in the course of one night, or even a few minutes of the early morning, I had created –either in cooperation, or possibly in competition, with my wife—one, or even two, large paintings and several smaller ones.

Ron Singer
Ron Singer

A list of other works by Ron Singer:

1. From a Small Fish: an invented resume’ for a painter

2.    Untitled: a set of verbal genre paintings based on episodes from John Rewald’s History of Impressionism

3.    Art Installation: a description of an invented conceptual art installation

4.    The Sense of Order: a meditation on Morandi and public spaces

5.    From a Review of: a review of an imagined modern analogue to “The Battle of San Marino”

6.    From Mr. Small Fish: companion resume’ to #1 above, this one about a writer