Moving in the Landscapes of my Dreams
2011, mixed media and moving parts on unstretched canvas, 37 x 82", by Jenny Badger Sultan
Each flap in this landscape hides a dream. Click a flap to see what's underneath.
Some characters in this painting are cut-outs backed by magnets. On the back of the main canvas--an unstretched wall-hanging you can reach behind--are matching magnets. By shifting the magnets, the characters can move around the landscape. You'll note that the hikers, the image of me, Jenny, and the large coyote/wolf/dog are in different places on the two photos, the first with flaps closed, the second with them all rolled up to reveal their secrets. These aren't shots of the painting in different stages of completion, but a demonstration of the finished painting's variability.
It Looks like a Harp!--August 1, 2010
Hank and I and my in-laws, Jeanne and Ric, are driving up into mountains. It is winter and the air is very clear. The mountains are rock--no vegetation--and are beautiful colors--soft violets and peach and light red-brown in striations.
We stop and are going to take a hike. Jeanne takes some drawing materials and looks surprised when I don't. I say "I don't feel like drawing but I admire you for wanting to."
Ric and Jeanne and I are walking on the edge of a steep area with rocks rising above and a long dropoff below. Jeanne sketches a formation which is lighter than the surrounding rock and looks like a face--Michael Jackson, perhaps. It's an inclusion--a huge, rounded boulder of light buff rock surrounded by more purplish stone.
We keep walking. Around a bend I look up and see an amazing steep wall of rock that is set back. I say, "That looks like a harp!" Ric and Jeanne say, "It is."
Just then Jeanne, who's ahead of me, somehow loosens a huge boulder. It starts to come away from the surrounding rock. I feel that it's dangerous being loose like this and want to dislodge it completely and let it fall. I shout, "Look our below!" and push it so it falls. I say to Ric & Jeanne, "We should really try not to loosen any more rocks--it may destroy the way."
Verity's Wings--August 21, 2009
A dream: we go out of a house, one by one, onto a field of billowing white cloth to receive something that will be part of our costumes. My friend Verity is given beautiful wings. I am jealous. Yet I'm also aware that they might symbolize angel wings, and thus my concern for her declining health.
Red Face, Green Face--March 20, 2011
A man tells me my face is green. I've been out in the sun, thought I might have a sunburn. Is he seeing an after-image of complementary color?
Tall Niches in the Cliffs--February 7, 2011
In a dry landscape with mountains, we are approaching some cliffs where there are tall, vacant niches. I realize this is the place where the gigantic Buddhas were which the Taliban blew up.
The Bound Woman--March 13, 2011
Driving around at night. Don't know where I'm going. Several streets I go down are extremely steep. The last one is a straight, very steep shot down between tightly packed rows of trees. Can I slow down enough not to go hurtling? Brushing by the trees slows me down.
At the bottom there are some buildings--simple, open. I walk around. Remains of a fire? Not sure. I see pieces of cooked meat--sliced, big, of a kind of stringy texture. I am wondering what has been going on here. A sort of disembodied presence tells me "A mother was protecting her children."
I see something flat that has a configuration on it--something flat stitched with string. The presence invites me to visualize a woman bound on this flat surface--roasted and then being sliced up for food and/or a sacrifice. I visualize her as young, brown skinned (Hispanic?) with black hair.
My memory is vague but the scenario the dream suggests is horrific.
The Salt Cave--January 8, 2000
After a lot of time and trouble, I think "Well, there is one thing I can do." Down by the beach is a rock cliff with a cave-like hole about waist high, two or three feet in diameter. The cave is relatively shallow. Inside is some fine sand and a deposit of what must be salt--fine and almost fluffy white, which goes up the back side of the opening.
I want to come here and bring the water I put out at the solstice full moon and pour it into the opening where it will become a small pool. At first I think of just pouring the wineglass full, then I think I want to pour the decanter too.
This seems like just the right thing to do. I touch the salt and it falls down a bit from how high it was on the wall. I try to put it back up but it won't stay. I wonder how it got there. Does the tide come in that far and fill the little cave and then recede, leaving the salt deposit?
When I painted this, I added beads like pearls to emphasize salt's nature: treasure. Jewels we eat.
As with the Salt Caves, I added beads here: water drops as jewels, as pearls we fail to treasure.
Conversation With the Helpful Doctor--February 8, 2011
I receive a phone call. A man with an accent says "I want to tell you the results of some medical tests." I ask him "What condition of mine are you reporting on?" He tries to tell me, but our connection is poor and I just cannot make sense of what he's saying. He suggests that we meet outdoors in a kind of garden-courtyard.
We are now outdoors together. He is a doctor. Somewhat short and compact, balding, wearing glasses. I think his accent is Germanic. He clarifies for me what area of my health he was trying to communicate about. It's something not so recent--goes back a ways. I tell "It's hard to get a picture of my health as a whole. Each doctor can only talk about the small part that concerns them--they cannot make a relationship to the whole."
He agrees "This is a big problem--each condition ought to be seen in relation to all the others and to the whole." He seems like someone who will be able to bring that kind of insight to me.
Green Stones with Holes--March 16, 2011
I see Dahlia. She is telling me about an ecstatic experience she has had. It was in some middle-eastern deserty place. She shows me some green stones, some of which have holes--you could easily wear them. They are found in this place. I ask her if the holes are natural or were human-made. She shows me a kind of diaper/loin cloth affair that she wore. It’s black, goes around the body and under the crotch and fastens somehow. This is what she wore (and maybe only this). I say "Yes, it seems this sort of garment is becoming popular--I have seen young people wearing it." She tells me "At the museum there is an exhibit now of the art of this place and culture. You must see it." I say "I am definitely planning to. I wouldn’t have known anything about it except that I was walking down Van Ness [I think; a main street] and saw banners announcing the show." She describes her experience in the desert wearing the loincloth, in the sun, as a meditative ecstatic feeling. She glows with the telling.
This dream feels like a great gift after the dark and horrible images I’ve been having.
Riding the Wild Animal--January 7, 2011
Out in nature, I see a wild animal--very unusual--it looks dog-like but much bigger--almost as tall as a horse. It has hair of different colors. Some is shaggy. I feel it might be dangerous and we should stay away from it.
But it comes very close to me and I find myself climbing on its back and riding it, leaning down and holding around its neck.
I tell my companions "This is good."
Broken Vessels 1--March 10, 2011
After a party where there were discussions about religion, there is a small, round vessel which is broken. People were tossing it around.
Broken Vessels 2--March 27, 2011
My brother has broken three ceramic vessels of mine in succession, but inadvertently. The last one is one that I made, brown with white designs.
Swimming with Seals--March 11, 2010
I am swimming in the ocean. There are animals in the water--either seals or dolphins--I'm not sure. I feel excited. They are under me, very close. I realize I can reach out and touch them. Tentatively I reach my hand out and pet one on the head. I think I pet others. One is light in color--I feel the fur on its head. This is thrilling. Later, I tell my friends.
Men in Robes--January 20, 2011
Under this flap with an image of a city is hidden a very different dream:
A party. There’s food. We’ve been eating, then washing dishes. I look in the fridge, discover a box with a dessert in it, also a few more pieces of crumb cake. I bring these out. Then someone comes in with a birthday cake for a young boy and we all sing, “Happy Birthday.”
There is a long dark corridor leading to the front door. Against the light of the open door I see the silhouettes of men in robes who are entering. There’s a Middle Eastern feeling to them. This is unexpected, but one of the men is the father of the birthday boy. I think this is special.