Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Things that go bump in the night

I gathered these four pieces together because they all deal with nightmares. Two nights ago I had my first nightmare since I was a child. I had a number of them in a row, each time went back to sleep I was in a new one. Now usually I don’t sleep because I’m an insomniac and when I do I only get four to five hours tops before my body wakes itself up. On Monday I was getting about six to seven hours of sleep, which is a very rare occasion. And I find it intriguing that the night I get a somewhat normal amount of sleep I also have three terrifying nightmares. One of these felt very much like a nightmare I would have had as a child, filled with abstract and bright monsters chasing after me. This one was over fairly quickly and I shrugged it off as more of a strange dream then a nightmare although it did thoroughly creep me out. My second nightmare was much more realistic and tapped into my fear of heights. I was standing on a crane for some reason with the wind blowing. I tried to make it back to the body of the crane but I fell and instead of dying I hit water but it was an ocean and it was a rough one at that. I couldn’t stay afloat and started drowning, waking up right before I died. The third nightmare I had was the most vivid and horrifying to me. I won’t go into to much detail but it dealt with robbers and people breaking into my house. I was terrified and was trying to get to my family. After a while I woke up from this nightmare covered in sweat. I looked around to find my roommate so I could make sure I was awake. But when I looked around my roommate was nowhere to be found and I see a masked figure standing in my doorway with a gun. Then I woke up again, for real and found everything in order. I didn’t go back to sleep for a while and the next night I was a bit afraid to fall asleep because of this streak of nightmares.

These paintings all deal with the realm of dreams and more specifically nightmares. The first and most famous of these is The Nightmare (1781) by Henry Fuseli. The sleeping woman lays in anguish as the nightmare plagues her sleep and comes to view in the background of the painting. The horse and incubus are two very common symbols associated with nightmares and look on as she lies in this prime pose to have such dreams. Fuseli uses chiaroscuro to create a very strong contrast between the lights and darks in the painting and the coloring is very rich and vivid. All of the other nightmare paintings draw from this one. They aren’t as realistic but they portray similar emotions. The painting of the same name by John Fitzgerald pays homage to Fuseli, changing a few details but remaining true to the painting. His is much bluer and actually plays out the nightmare in the background instead of implying it. But the woman lies in the same pose and she’s surrounded by her nightmare in the same way. Robert Lee’s Twisted face reminds me of the way I feel during the nightmare. The eyes are wide with fear, the mouth screams a silent scream all while being distorted and turned upside down. This nightmare painting has more of a surreal interpretation then the previous two and leaves almost everything to the imagination. Even so, Lee still pin points the fear of the dreamer and makes it the forefront of his work. The last nightmare work I chose is Joshua Hoffine’s Nightmare, a photograph that I think we can all relate to. A small child clutches desperately to her teddy bear as giant monstrous hands reach out from under the bed. She stays hunched toward the back of the bed hoping the hands won’t notice her and be content with the blocks on the floor. I love the play with shadows in this piece, especially the little girl’s and under the bed. The shadow under the bed is pitch black and then completely light, no transition between the two. The blocks make me curious, I’m not exactly sure what their purpose is. Maybe they were knocked over by the hands or maybe the little girl just didn’t clean them up before she got into bed. The fact that all the lights are on makes me think she’s probably afraid of the day and maybe that’s why only the hands of the monster are exposed and not the rest of it. All of these nightmare pieces grasp onto the same emotions of fear, horror, and the unknown. Combining these things can lead to a number of images and ideas just as dreams can.

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