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Artists’ subconscious thoughts become reality in CCAH exhibit

April E. Clark
Arts and Entertainment Contributor
Eight pieces by Lisa Ellena made of clay, glaze, encaustic wax and ink. Titles are, from left, top row: Stitch, Pursue, Persist and Expel; and bottom row: Repository, Dispute, Ambush and Emerge.
Staff Photo |

CARBONDALE — Visual artist Brian Colley describes his dreams as vivid and visceral. Naturally, he was drawn to a dream theme for his first art exhibit as curator.

“Sometimes I wake up with the best story to tell. I really look forward to going to bed and have learned that even nightmares have lessons for us,” he said. “Lucid dreaming is a goal of mine, and if I can understand and explore my dreams better, I might be more able to make sense of my waking life.”

Colley said the concept for the “Dream On: The Subconscious Takes on Art” exhibit, at Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities R2 Gallery through May 2, sparked while brainstorming titles for his paintings.



“I try to find interesting phrases and sometimes even song lyrics for my artwork titles. Things like, ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire,’ ‘All That Glitters,’ and ‘Déjà Vu All Over Again,’ and phrases that have multiple meanings appeal to me,” he said. “So ‘Dream On’ [by Aerosmith] fit well with that idea.”

As a first-time curator, Colley was motivated to present CCAH with an idea for a new exhibit that would stand out and show diversity in concepts.



“I’m always trying to think outside the box and push the boundaries of conventional ideas, and ‘Dream On’ seemed like an extraordinary opportunity to stretch the imagination,” he said. This being my first experience as a curator, I was very excited to bring my own unique perspective to the art community.”

Along with Colley, valley artists John Cohorst, Lisa Ellena, Deborah Jones, Wewer Keohane, Johanna Mueller, Philip Hone Williams and Frank Norwood are featured in the Carbondale exhibit. The four men and four women explore all facets of the dream spectrum through a range of media, from collage and ceramics to printmaking and interactive installation art, Colley said.

“Each artist has approached the idea of ‘Dream On’ differently,” he said. “Some delve into the more subconscious level of how dreams are reflected in our waking life, while others play with the imaginative, whimsical and surreal nature of the dream world.”

Printmaking work by Norwood, who owns Main Street Gallery with his wife, Sally, is showcased in the April exhibit. He specializes in etching on and printing from copper plates. Colley sought out Norwood’s work because he envisioned intriguing and thought-provoking paintings and drawings in the exhibit.

Norwood’s imagery fit the criteria.

“Frank’s work is imaginative and detailed,” Colley said.

Since premiering on March 20 in the CCAH gallery, “Dream On” has had a lively reception from the public, Colley said.

“‘Dream On’ has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the community, which is very exciting considering there really hasn’t been a show quite like this one at CCAH,” he said. “The multi-faceted ideas it presents can be inspiring to people of all ages and backgrounds. Our opening reception brought so many new people to the gallery, some who’d never heard of CCAH. When people feel that kind of connection to art, I feel that it’s a huge success, and it is one of many reasons CCAH is such a vital part of this community.”

As part of the exhibition, “Dream On” artist and author Keohane is hosting the Artful Dreaming Mini Workshop for CCAH’s monthly Artist Beat series from 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday, April 17. Keohane self-published “Artful Dreaming: A Primer for Finding Inspiration from Your Dreams” in 2009 to take a closer look at dream interpretation. In the workshop, she will facilitate exercises in illustrating dreams through collage and drawing and will help interpret participants’ dreams.

Keohane’s workshop is one of several interactive highlights of “Dream On,” open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday at CCAH.

“We’ve also created a small library and sitting area to invite visitors to spend time reading books about dreams and dream interpretation,” Colley said. “Wewer’s book will be available for purchase.”

Colley said his own dream journal, which he has maintained for seven years, has played a key role in making his first curated show a reality.

“I’ve kept a dream journal as a way to remember those fleeting, ephemeral moments when waking up,” he said. “Many of them are pretty epic and full of adventure, some are silly and absurd, while others have actually pointed to something I was dealing with in my waking life.”

“Dream On” allowed Colley to expand his own dream interpretation and art experimentation by working with Masonite board to create three-dimensional, more sculptural forms.

“It was a bit of a leap, I’ll admit, but I’m very happy with the result and plan to create similar work in the future, especially of one ‘assemblage’ featuring a night sky full of literally spinning constellations.”

Colley said by sorting through his dreams, ideas and struggles, he was able to express them through art and create “Dream On.”

“For this show, I decided to let go of all that and have fun painting straight from my dreams,” he said. “Which meant letting go of the controls.”


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