“So I wasn’t dreaming, after all,’ she said to herself, ‘unless—unless we’re all part of the same dream” _ Alice, in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass”
I attended an artists talk by Leah Brown, inside her newly installed exhibition TRANSFORMATION OF ECHO: World of Dreams, at Young At Art Museum in Davie. “Who knows what Lucid Dreaming is?” the artist asked, several hands went up and she called upon one to answer the question. The participant went on to explain that, it is like dreaming, but not really, because your sort of awake and know that your dreaming, “That’s correct” responded the artist, a little surprised that the answer came so quickly from one of the 100 or so elementary school age summer campers sitting on the floor before her.
At this point she looked satisfied that this was going to be a great exchange and went on to talk about her installation. She told the story of how she had vivid dreams as a child and tried to recall them each morning when she awoke, that she kept a journal and wrote about all of the different characters, recording their names and stories.
Their were woodland characters, one called Echo, they spoke to her and told long tales that lasted for centuries. She went on to explain how, one day she realized that she could participate and take control of the story, when she was at that point, just before waking and dreaming. She became the master of her dreams, like a magician, and then she proceeded to show the campers how they too, could become magicians and control their dreams.
As Brown continued her conversation with the children, answering questions and giving details about each of the characters in the installation, I wandered across a small bridge that led me into the center of the dream. Brown has transformed the Knight Gallery at Young At Art Museum, into a phantasmagorical stage in which the viewer becomes an active participant.
From the great circus like entrance to the exhibition, with it’s giant hands pulling apart white sheets, welcoming viewers in, choices must be made. Follow the white sheeted path to the right or stoop to navigate a mirrored maze to the left. Either way you will enter an enchanted forest filled with flora and fauna, lights and mirrors and like Alice, in Lewis Carroll’s book “Through the Looking Glass” you will question whose dream you are in.
Everything seems to be covered in white linens, as if they have been tucked in tightly for the night. Human forms can be recognized resting on the ground, trees grow tall, taking on human features then becoming trees again. Other characters seem to have escaped the bounds of the sheets, coming to life in this dream. Fauna, shape shift between human and animal, half-cat is a panther with a woman’s face, Mama Bear has a human face and hands, Wolfie is a man’s body with a wolf’s head. Caterbaby, she explains is one of the oldest characters in the room, a caterpillar with a baby doll’s face, arms and legs, frozen in time, this creature is forever waiting to transform into a lovely butterfly.
Mirrors throughout, add to an infinite perception of space and time, a deer with two legs, has four, when perceived through the looking glass. Colored lights reflect abstract patterns throughout the room and the sounds of birds chirping lends to the verisimilitude of the experience.
Later that week I took my three and half year old grandson to view this “crazy dream”. He was very cautious and did not want to enter through the mirrored maze, until a young boy came prancing out and offered to guide him through. Clinging to my hand we navigated the path of mirrors and reached the magical world. I explained how it was like a dream, but that he was awake and could move about as he wished. He explored the room discovering all of the mysterious sights and sounds but when it was time to leave, he was still too afraid to exit down the dark slide tunnel, which was too small for an adult to join him.
My grandson talked about the “crazy dream” so much that he returned with his mother, eager to show her around. There were no more fears this time as he guided her through the mirrored maze, and after thoroughly exploring the dream, he exited down the slide tunnel, again and again, ‘he’ was now the master of this dream.