Central to this work is the face: the red, rich lips and placed like a sacrament on those lips, is the ballerina in the dream. She has a doll face, which is scary, unreal and a bit, freakish. The blue heron, photographed by me a few years ago, is the second primarily element: there is so much rich detail and beauty in this bird and yet is placed in relation to the ballerina to appear she is being eaten by the beautiful bird. The owl was selected early on and placed at the point of the face’s eye: wisdom, knowing, seeing all with a majestic wingspan. The juxposition of the two penguins (which for me are very humorous) are seen flying in a balloon, again placed at the face’s eye. I think they must be part of a child’s story called, “The Flight of the Flying-Balloon Penguins!” They are humorous and disarming. The trees are part of another image: that is, the main elements without the “face” are part of a hidden, complete work, unseen in this work, the visual one where the dancer, penguins and bird all fit within it as well. For me the bird tattoos on the face are like a rich tapestry and is a backdrop for the theme of birds, flying and danger and emphasize the themes of flight, danger and beauty.
The process of creating this work was very difficult. I had just finished the “Passing of Secrets” and was feeling very good about it; also many had expressed that they liked it, which is always a big boost. But the demons of doubt were strong. I found it very difficult to concentrate and did not feel compelled to begin with blocks of color, which for me is often a creative starting point. So I just started going through images and stopping at the ones that drew me in. I started collecting the ones that did draw me in not knowing how they would interrelate. During this process I decided that I did want to use the sleeping woman and tried to fit her into a back ground with a general landscape setting (such as a lake) but that did not feel right. In Photoshop, I manipulating her face, changing the perspective to what you see in the work. Once the face was placed, filling in the entire screen, I then knew I had the base of my work. Another key moment was the placing of the ballerina in the mouth; even before that I knew I wanted the ballerina to have the doll face, which for me gave it a scary, dead disturbing image. The balloon was also selected early on but it was taken out and put back many times. The penguins made me smile. I found them during my search for elements and initially liked them but was not sure they would be part of this work. Eventually, I liked the way they were obviously looking at something and I knew they would be looking at the ballerina and also would give balance to the blue heron. Early on, the blue heron was more full bodied, but after playing the with size and placement for a while, I increased the size to the point of where it is now; also, I knew that the heron would interact with the ballerina in the form of “eating her for lunch” and also bringing balance to the tattoo bird on the face doing the same thing. This created a real world/ unreal world balance that I liked. At one point I had the all the elements where they are now and I knew it for placement and interaction of the elements that it was finished. I then did close inspection where I go around and look at the work in a high resolution and made several corrections and ran it through some filters that increase the color richness and contrast. Afterwards, I was very excited to have it completed and knew it was done. I was glad and happy at the results.
I see this work in an exotic location where “surreal” would be at home: it is rich in color, dreamlike, exotic, bizarre, and multi-dimensional. For me, it would be something that reminds the viewer of dreams and the fears that come with our dreams and what might happen if we face and overcome them.
I wish I could print this effectively on a heavy, medieval tapestry and hang it in a great castle.
I believe the concept of the work is one of dreams and of the unconscious, and perhaps, universal nightmares. The ballerina in the dream is watched, judged, vulnerable and in danger; recurring themes of escape and flying away are present. But in the end, we must face our internal battles and dance.