Working With Dreams As Found Objects


Making objects and images just for their esthetic value,
just for the sake of seeing something beautiful,
never completely satisfies me.

I always need to see something of the unconscious,
the unexpected, the dreamworld in everything I make.
Perhaps this is my definition of beauty.

Collecting Stuff
The experience of finding and discovering is what thrills me. I have been finding and collecting objects, images and image fragments for decades. I collect everything from rusty nails to surgical tools, from broken dolls to mummified rodents, from discarded wooden boxes to dusty mannikins, from tourist polaroids forgotten at the scene to oncological slides.

    I have a collection of pelts from local birds that I have skinned and cured after finding them dead by the roadside or under a window or on the beach or which friends have given to me. I have a collection of little pieces of rusty wire that I call "My Found Line Collection".

    I have a big box full of hundreds of rattlesnake skin fragments.   I have boxes full of shells, shards, and linoleum fragments. I love the linoleum fragments! I have all sizes. Some have appeared in drawings I have done. I have a collection of flattened metal toys and tin cans. I have drawers full of old typewriter and sewing machine parts.

    I have a box full of pencil stubs. I have boxes full of springs and metal fittings of all kinds, boxes of beads and some containing small elegant bits of driftwood. I also collect wood and metal boxes of all sizes. I save pieces of used wood and lumber of every size and shape that I happen to encounter.

    Perhaps my favorite of all collections is my twig collection: mostly birch, some pine, bay and maple. All are from trees that I have cut down or pruned. I spend more time deciding how to cut up the twigs and branches into smaller pieces than I do doing the actual pruning. Deciding how to cut up a pruned branch is another kind of discovery. It is like releasing or freeing shapes that were hiding in the trees. After they are all cut up into unique and more manageable shapes and sizes then I carefully strip and cure each piece. Having my twig collection makes me feel wealthy.
Making Stuff
Often these found materials are so surprising and wonderful that they elicit a response from me in the form of a finished object or image. When these finished products are void of any cleverness or pre-conceived plans, ideas or designs, and that which originally caught my eye in the found materials has not been destroyed, then these works come alive and are allowed to remain.
    If not, then I experience the work as being without soul or spirit. It is dead and I can't bear to look at it. It is not filled with honesty. The mysterious and perfect content of the unexpected has been mangled beyond recognition so the work is dismantled or destroyed or as Marcel Duchamp said: "allowed to collect dust."



Dreams as Found Objects

I also have a collection of dreams and just as with my other collections of found objects, there is always room for more treasure.


Discovering dreams is just as exciting as discovering magnificent found objects. Surprising, unexpected and unsullied by pre-conceptions or planning, dreams can be trusted.

    When I trust the dream, never doubt or question it, just pay attention and take notes as carefully as I can, I am often able to bring the essence of the dream and dreamworld into the waking world via an object or image or poem or movement or a combination of these forms.
    If I can recognize the dream, the dreamworld and the dreamknowing in this resulting work, it remains.   If not, I let go of it and it falls apart.
Why and How I Work with Dreams
Honesty , truth and orginality are what I want my work to embody and present. To see with such clarity that I can make objects and images which in turn echo, reflect or reveal the viewer's own ability to see with clarity, that is my goal.

    Because dreams arise in me without any control or direction on my part, I can trust them to be honest, to be true and original. When the content or intent of an object or image that I am working with arises, not from dream but instead from cleverness, intellectual or aesthetic skill or from pre-conceived plans, ideas or designs, I experience the work as being without spirit. Dead.

    When I look at one of my works that is not filled with the honesty or special sense of freshness that comes from dream (and other found material), I can't tolerate it. But I do not always have dream material handy to help me out, so over the years, I have had to search for other sources and inspirations that can reveal that sense of the unexpected and help me to possibly get a glimpse of the truth when dream is not available. These sources and methods include my mottos and allies ("Flaws," "Umbiliforms" and "The Spilling of Dark Waters") and processes like "draw-so-fast-you-can't-think."

    When the foundation or impetus for a work comes from dream and the dreamworld, it can be trusted. When I trust the dream, never doubt or question it, just observe and take notes as carefully as I can, then (depending on my ability to bring the fragile substance of the dream into the waking world without destroying it in the process) , the dream essence stays alive just enough to infuse the work with honesty. If I recognize the work as somehow mirroring the dreamworld, then it can stay. If not, I let go of it and it falls apart.

    I apply this same attitude to my other sources, found materials and processes. I never doubt or question the gifts they bring that are inherent in their nature. The more unexpected and surprisingly fresh or strange those gifts happen to be, so much the better.
Special Tools*
The mottos below are some of the tools I use when doing the careful work of bringing dream into the waking world.   They provide invaluable assistance in ensuring the least possible damage, distortion or loss as inspiration is given form.

The Only True Originality is Honesty.
Doing: Not-disturb.
Eliminate Preconceptions (even this one).
Announce the Flaws.
Embrace Your Own Ugliness.
Reclaim the Sacred.
I Can No Longer Be Certain.

*For more about these tools and others, refer to Bob's Motto Factory or the NFMOA Library.