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Mary McBride and the Spiritual Earth Movement

Dreamed October 26, 2011, painted 2012, acrylic on canvas, 56 x 48", by Jenny Badger Sultan


I am with a friend. Not clear who she is. Amy comes to mind, but it’s not clearly her. We meet a large, medium-brown skinned African-American woman who is an artist. She invites us into her home. There’s a group of people watching television--her family. Men, children--various degrees of black and mixed. They look at us a little strangely and I feel a bit uncomfortable but it’s O.K. We go into an inner room and she fixes us a snack--slices of watermelon, etc. Then she fixes herself something more substantial--with some white cheese, basil leaves. She says she hasn’t eaten for a long time.

We see photographs of some beautiful places in nature--red earth, a kind of vent--a depression or shallow hole in the earth where material from underground had emerged a long time ago.

I ask "Have you been doing any work with fabric?" She smiles a big smile and says “Oh, have I!” There are pieces of old linen around like some of my family linens. Things like tablecloths with edging, etc. I feel a lot of inner excitement. I feel that she is in touch with things that have been very important to me, but with which I have lost touch. I even think maybe she and I were in an art show together long ago. I want to ask her about it.

I have been eating my watermelon and realize I had not shared it with my friend. I offer her the plate but she says "I'm not hungry, thanks."

The woman asks "Have you heard of health insurance for artists, to help with problems as we age? It may be really cheap--like $3 a month."

My friend and I say we’re both in difficult health situations or just getting over them. I ask "Have you got the insurance?" and she says "No, but I’ll get it soon."

A man wanders in with a little girl with honey colored curls. Whatever they were watching on TV is over. They tease one another affectionately. He squats or kneels at her level.

I feel I am coming back to something important to me I was in touch with years ago but have lost touch with. I was part of a group which was very vital and alive (maybe at a college). We had shows. Then something happened. The woman who was the next leader just dropped the ball completely, and it all dwindled. I want to contact this woman and find out what happened.

I have a flash that tells me the identity of the black woman: “Mary McBride and the Spiritual Earth Movement.” This is wonderful.

Dream painting titled 'Mary McBride and the Spiritual Earth Movement', by Jenny Badger Sultan. Click to enlarge


This dream came at a time of disorientation and feeling I’d lost my center. As I worked on the painting, trying to imagine the “Spiritual Earth Movement landscape”, I felt connected to Australian aboriginal art and how their whole landscape is animated by the creative activities of mythical animal ancestors. Some animals began to appear in the painting, but they are subtle and remain part of the ground.

This dream inspired two later paintings of the menagerie of the world: Deep Time and The Birds and the Beasts were There.

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