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article imageOp-Ed: Dreams are what art is made of for exhibit in Mill Valley Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Oct 17, 2016 in Lifestyle
Mill Valley - As the weather turns to fall, the chill in the air and the shortening of days makes people more inclined to be indoors and to sleep. And it is when in deep REM sleep that scientists say that people have dreams.
'Dreamscapes' is the theme of the exhibit now showing at the O'Hanlon Center for The Arts in Mill Valley. This past Oct 4, The Center hosted a Roundtable fostering a dialog between the participating artists about issues relating to the creative process. "We have a Roundtable each month here at the Center," said program and outreach director Erma Murphy.
Yet, this one was interesting because it was about dreams. Artist, sculptress and dance performer Sha Sha Higby was the juror for the dozens of submissions. "We chose Sha Sha, said Murphy because she's so otherworldly and because she is known and respect in many artistic circles."
Born in Detroit, Michigan Higby's life-travels and schooling is as eclectic as her talents. After getting her Bachelor's degree at Skidmore College in New York Higby went on to U.C. Santa Cruz and then on to the California College of Arts and Crafts. But it is perhaps in her travels to Japan, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and then onto India where her unique talent and styles emerged. Studying dance, mask and puppet making, in Indonesia for five years, and then incorporating it all into her sculpting and various mixed-media art expressions, Higby was right at home with the subject matter of dreams.
Yet as she said to this reporter, "it is not easy being a juror and I did not know any of the artists who submitted their works for this exhibit at O'Hanlon Center for The Arts." She noted that as a juror one must be objective, pay close attention and keep in focus with the theme. "I have to say many of the submissions were from artists using colors and things I wouldn't have used. And it was noted in the discussions that some of the color palates were very dark."
She paused for a moment and then said, "Well dreams have to do with night time and the subconscious. So I guess use of darker colors and moods make sense. I enjoyed the variety of the submissions, said Higby. And I had to really stay on focus and not go after what I usually like. I wanted to try and put myself in the other artists' shoes."
Higby noted that as juror, "Whether you like a painting/submission or not, the objective is the theme for the exhibit. Some submissions were surreal — a bit on the edge, yet surreal expression is dream like."
Murphy noted that "whether daydreams or night visions…dreams provide a wealth of creative inspiration, and creating artwork inspired by dreams can be a powerful tool for self understanding.”
“Contemporary, expressionistic, abstract exploratory, and/or experimental entries were encouraged, said Murphy. O’Hanlon Center for the Arts emphasize the creative process and the continued pursuit of meaning and authenticity through observation, exploration, and experimentation.”
Sonoma artist Sonja Bakalyar was very happy to have been selected. "Sha Sha chose my mixed media painting titled '4633 Keeping Cool' to be included in the show.
Murphy mentioned that the painting was not an abstract.
Bakalyar explained. "It was inspired by daydreaming of relaxing at the beach and enjoying ice-cream from the colorful trucks. I experimented with combining my acrylic abstract painting with digital transfers of my photographs which I took while driving along the Florida seashore."
Higby mentioned that one of the things she found very interesting about all of the submissions she juried over was how some used both technology and traditional handcrafted materials — like crochet. "Handmade versus the digital influence."
"It didn't take long to go through all the submissions, about an hour and a half," said Higby. "Some submissions were expressed on paper and were primitive as like a child's drawing but those were still very powerful, full of expression, they were a joy," she added.
The Dreamscapes exhibit began on Sept. 29 and continued until Oct. 20  2016 at the O Hanlon Center f...
The Dreamscapes exhibit began on Sept. 29 and continued until Oct. 20, 2016 at the O'Hanlon Center for The Arts in Mill Valley.
Courtesy of O'Hanlon Center for The Arts, Mill Valley, CA
"I have been on submission juries before," said Higby, "some as many as five jurors. And that is interesting because one juror will pick something and another juror will select something completely different."
Still, Higby pointed out, as a juror "one does not have to be too technical. It is all about recognizing what has been worked on. Was there a lot of thought that was put into the piece? If it's well-thought out, what is strong about it? And so forth. It's not arbitrary, there is a universal knowledge, understanding that is followed," she said.
"Dreamscapes" exhibit continues at O'Hanlon Center For The Arts until Oct. 20. For more information visit the Center's website.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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