Dreams, sleep inspire exhibit

The term “office painting” often conjures images of kitschy reproductions of famous artwork attempting to bring white walls to life. But the current exhibit at the Gallery @ Haskins Laboratories brings new meaning to the concept of “office art,” juxtaposing the original work of local artists with a decidedly concrete setting.

“Dreams, Memory and Sleep,” an exhibition created by The Arts Council of Greater New Haven, will be on display this spring at the gallery, on the corner of George and High streets. The exhibit features art made from a variety of media whose subject matter encompasses some aspect of dreams, memory or sleep.

Surrealist art glorifies the mind’s illogicality at a new exhibit at the Haskins Laboratories Gallery.  Psychologically  inspired works, such as a sculpture of aligned human fingers, bridge the gap between sleep and consciousness.
Nick Bayless
Surrealist art glorifies the mind’s illogicality at a new exhibit at the Haskins Laboratories Gallery. Psychologically inspired works, such as a sculpture of aligned human fingers, bridge the gap between sleep and consciousness.

Rashmi Talpade, a local artist and photographer, co-curated the show with fellow Arts Council member Fethi Meghelli. This curation process is part of the Arts Council’s mission to enrich the artistic community in New Haven, council representative Kara Arsenault said. When the group divides up the projects, she said, each member tries to select a theme with which the curators can identify.

Talpade said she chose work that focused on memory or the surreal, a topic that is of a particular interest to her. She said the experience of interacting with some of the photographs in particular was remarkably similar to the sensation of dreaming.

“The photographs I chose had a dreamlike quality, a stillness, a waiting to happen that evokes the quality of the dream,” she said.

The work of Dr. Robert Stickgold, a sleep researcher at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, inspired the title of the show. In the exhibit’s statement of intent, local artist Jari Chevalier said Stickgold’s explanation of sleep and dreams parallels the artist’s function in society.

“Sleep and dreams are how the brain sorts itself out, how it locks in learning and extracts gist,” he said in a press release. “In sleep, the brain talks to itself in a language of imagery, as it abstracts and symbolizes meaning from experience, bringing order to new information.”

The Arts Council chose the Haskins Gallery for the location because it is a commonly visited place that often draws a diverse group of people, Talpade said. Although the Haskins Laboratories does not do specifically conduct research on dreams and the subjective mind, she said the exhibit does relate to a type of psychological work on language that the laboratory performs.

While the interaction between the show and the office desks engenders an odd setting for such subjective and psychological artwork, it succeeds in making a connection between art and science — something that dreams can embody.

Talpade said she hopes that viewers can draw from their imaginations upon viewing the work and embrace a previously uncultivated realm of thought.

“The exhibit is an exploration of how dreams can affect your life,” she said. “It should get people to think and try to remember their dreams and think of things in their past. When you are looking at the work, it might evoke a memory or a response — we all have memories, we have all dreamed.”

The featured artists use a variety of mediums to convey this Freudian perception of the subconscious mind that often haunts us in our sleep.

Many of the paintings are brightly colored with bizarre juxtapositions of shapes, while others are solely ephemeral — white and surreal. Each artwork, in its own right, captures an uncanny portrait of the unknown or the undiscovered.

From multimedia collages to sculptures, the artworks encompass a variety of media, bringing depth to the show. No two works are the same.

The exhibition, which was also produced in collaboration with the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health, will end on April 25 after a closing reception on the 19th that will include a panel of experts who research dreams and memory. The artists featured in the exhibit are David Coon, Ann Holley, Lisa Hess Hesselgrave, Julie Fraenkel, Joan Gardner, Judy Gelles, Mary Lesser, Maryann Ott, Jay Seeley and Greta Stromberg.

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