The science of dreaming meets art
International photographer visits campus
Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 00:10
The artistic merit of photography has long been contested by people outside of the art world, but Susan kae Grant let students know that it is an immensely worthwhile and intricate art.
One of the most prominent contemporary photographers, Grant visited CU Denver on Sept. 27 and 28 for two great lectures. A professor at Texas Woman’s University, she was glad to answer any questions about her own work or give advice to students. Grant's lectures were rife with insight into her amazing works.
Starting in the early 1990s, the photographer dedicated herself to an extensive body of work that explores dreams, visions, and the unconscious. She admitted her fascination with dreams. Using herself as a subject, Grant monitored herself before taking on the creative side of things—she wanted to experiment with her own dreams. She employed REM, a controlled sleep, in a laboratory. For a year, Grant spent dozens of nights in a laboratory, plugged in to all sorts of cables, and woke up to remember her dreams.
After a year of research and seven years of data analysis and reflection, the artist had to decide how to express her dreams through art. The “Night Journey” project began.
She chose shadow as a metaphor for dreams. Grant experimented with different effects and objects to create interesting shadows. The project encompasses two sets of artwork— traditional photographs and an installation piece. The installation, Grant’s photographs printed on fabric, is suspended from the ceiling and takes up an entire room. Viewers are invited to enter the room and wander around the fabrics, as though they are walking in a dream state. Through sheer fabrics, an audience experiences more than one artwork at a time, taking in the experience as a whole. Grant also started a book on all of the work and what she calls “chapters.”
Chapter I, called “Night Interrogations,” encompasses her works from 1999 to 2000. Grant has used extensive set-ups with puppets and various objects, but later began to work with models in her sets. Some works are so sophisticated that it is almost impossible to differentiate between the puppets and the models.
“Fragmented Questions,” Chapter II of Grant’s dream explorations, lasted from 2000 to 2002 and played with a lot of dimensions, and so, the notion of space came forward in this series. Plus, compared to the first steps of this project’s ephemeral photographs, new works from this stage were not translucent and so sheer anymore; viewers could not see through the objects anymore.
Grant’s works from 2002 to 2006 experimented with background and foreground and were included in Chapter III, “Unconscious Memory.”
Chapter IV, “Visions of an Insomniac” began in 2007 and went through 2009. Through juxtaposing those with corresponding soundtracks, these photographs are much deviated from her previous works.
The current chapter of “Night Journey” is called “Theatrical Realms Of The Whimsical And Tragic.” Indeed, the images are more theatrical and dramatic than ever. Grant said that her works are often described as whimsical, and so, she decided to take this approach to the next level. The photographs have also become more abstract and surreal.
Grant's lecture was intriguing and most likely a wonderful influence on student photographers, and artists in general. She shows a true marriage of art and psychology, of reflection and expression, and, most of all, she shows passion.