All are invited on a surrealistic journey through a tangible dreamscape at REM: Exploring Sleep Through Art, a one-night gallery held by Astroetic Studios that will highlight artists varying in mediums, from mind-bending paintings and textured drawings, to luminous installations and orgasmic photography.
The mysteries of dreams seem to have permeated almost every culture, past and present. Renowned psychoanalysts have puzzled over them; ancient monks have sought and found enlightenment through them; and significant advances in physics, history, and art would not have been possible without them. Given all this, it makes sense that the creative minds behind Astroetic Studios would think to centralize the theme of their first self-curated art gallery around the subconscious human mind.
REM: Exploring Sleep Through Art is a one-night event that, much like Astroetic Studios‘ carnivalesque debut Sensory, seeks to transport guests to a different world and help them connect with art in new, intimate ways. REM will showcase the work of over twenty multimedia artists, in pieces that range from multidimensional epoxy-resin collages to constructed sleep domes and intricate illustrations that show the fragility, torment, and bliss contained within our subconscious.
I was lucky enough to speak with several of the artists displaying at REM to learn more about how dreams inform their work, and get a hint of what guests can expect to see at the show.
At just 19-years-old, Kelly Lanphier has already achieved what many artists struggle over a lifetime to do, that is, earn enough from her artistic ambitions to pursue them full time. Stating that she developed her technique over time with the materials most accessible to her, Lanphier’s current work displays amorphous jellyfish-like creatures she’s coined “fungus jellies,” that change colors and illuminate hidden anatomy under UV light.
When asked what draws her to these unique creatures, Lanphier explained, “Jelly fish have always been one of my favorite animals since childhood. What initially drew me to them was their alien-like structure and vibrancy. Their ethereal fluidity is practically unmatched by any other creature on this planet. Something interesting that many people don’t know about jellyfish is that they don’t have a heart or brain. My fungus jellies are a combination of jellyfish and fungus. They are both very simple, yet complex organisms. Fungi are also more genetically similar to humans than they are to plants!”
She speculates that if these imagined beings were capable of dreaming, they would consist of,
Things like canoeing through the veins of plants on a microscopic level and having tea parties with extraterrestrial beings.
I was just as thrilled to get a chance to speak with Juliette Hayt, an undergrad at NYU Steinhardt. Hayt’s concentration is in painting, but her works are far from ordinary, depicting goldfish with oddly alluring physiques, and women with disproportionate or lopsided features.
In regards to the inspirations behind her work, Hayt says, “I am inspired aesthetically by veins under our skin, freckles, intricate lingerie, bows (basically anything pink and girly), fashion, pop-culture fish – specifically koi -, bathroom hardware/pipes that flow underground. I am also inspired by Sartre’s theory of the imagination, John Berger’s writings on “ways of seeing,” happiness, depression, anxiety, psychiatric drugs, and colors that define moments/emotions.”
It turns out, REM is very much related to Hayt’s art, and in her words, “Because I tend to follow a stream of consciousness, my subconscious is actually the driving force of my artwork. Usually I start with a figure and let my paintbrush or pen take me where it needs to go. Naturally, I think a lot, so when I am overwhelmed with thoughts I find that they are purged through my intense colors and details. I believe what my brain picks up everyday is stored in my subconscious – I see them as creatures or some sort of living essence that I can free from my mind. And yes, dreams also influence my artwork, when I have extremely vivid and bizarre dreams I tend to write them in my journal.”
One of the most eye-catching pieces set to display at REM is done by local digital painter Burton Gray. “SKULL” appears somewhat straight-forward from a distance; swirling colors and images are arranged to create the whimsical inner workings of a human skull, but upon a closer look, a hidden utopia is discovered. It draws the viewer in with its impressive attention to detail, revealing delicate naked figures, unknown creatures and plants, and dripping, unblinking third eyes the more it’s dissected.
According to Gray’s personal artistic philosophy, REM is the perfect backdrop for his work. In his own words: “Our brains convince us of a lot of realities that are in fact not realities. As an artist I am interested in exploring life with this knowledge in mind.
Because all perception is an illusion I reject working from life, props or landscapes. Rather then work from observation of an illusion, like all figure painters and landscape painters of old, I begin in my own mind, working from memory and imagination.”
In addition to various types of still art, REM will also feature a projected video installation provided courtesy of Deeper Understanding, a Los Angeles duo who have set YouTube abuzz with their hilariously compiled found footage videos. Danny Haloossim and Robert Hill scour through bins at garage sales, thrift stores, and Amoeba’s blowout section, combing through hours of footage in search of the funny, cringe-worthy, or just plain bizarre.
Most recently, Deeper Understanding made headlines on major online vehicles Huffington Post and TMZ when teen actor-turned-evangelist Kirk Cameron took issue with one of their videos.
As Haloossim explains: “Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort had a show called Way of the Master, and each episode was dedicated to how to minister or witness to a certain group, like how to witness to teenagers, how to witness to gang members… We found a version that was called How to Witness to Gay People, and seeing as we’re both gay, we wanted to see if there was anything to mine from that, and it was pretty horrific. We did take a few things out of context, but we felt that we were portraying Kirk and his partner Ray in a pretty fair light. The video kind of blew up on the internet, the Huffington Post posted it, and pretty much every gay blog posted it, and word got to Kirk’s camp, and they filed a cease and desist on our YouTube video and it got taken down. Either way, we still stand behind it.”
You can check out some of Deeper Understanding’s previous work, and expect to see some of their greatest hits, uncensored clips not permissible on YouTube, and a few new compilations, playing on loop during REM.
In addition to curating and hosting the show, David Roston and Jonathan Haloossim, the co-founders of Astroetic Studios, are also debuting new work. They both have film backgrounds, but have branched out to experiment in other media, some of which they’ll be showcasing at REM. Roston has been collaborating with Adam Zarnegin on a dream-inspired installation that I’ve been ominously informed will feature living spiders, although requests for further information were coyly denied.
Full disclosure: Astroetic Studios’ co-founder Jonathan Haloossim is my boyfriend. Also, spoiler alert: I’m the subject in one of the photos he’s chosen to display at REM. Even so, I can say without favor, that the work he’s chosen to feature successfully delves into senses that often go unacknowledged during our waking hours. As he explains in more detail, “They all have to do with an intangible, dreamlike sense, where people are either floating, or it brings out a quality or emotion that people are often scared to show on the outside. It explores sexuality and orgasms and exploding heads, and that’s all I’ll say for now.”
Typically, I feel like art shows consist of people standing in front of a painting or a picture and just looking. We want people to step into an actual mind and play around with things. That’s why we have installments where you play with fluorescent lights and a sleep dome that they can climb inside, and audiovisual installations, because we really want people to have that interactive feeling, but as it relates to the dreamstate.
Another fascinating element of the show is not just the range of mediums, but how artists of the same medium choose to deal in it so differently. Alastair Bayardo’s main tool is graphite, and he will be featuring some of the most lifelike work, showing pieces from his series Celebrities on Canvas.
Although Bayardo’s art favors movie actors, and in particular classic film icon Marilyn Monroe, he doesn’t prescribe to the traditional definition of celebrity. Instead, he interprets it strictly, as anyone who is celebrated by another. As he puts it, “I believe that everyone is a celebrity, whether they’re celebrated by a parent or their family, it’s all subjective, everyone is a celebrity to someone.” To emphasize this point, Bayardo often creates custom pieces for buyers who wish to have portraits of their loved ones.
An artist whose work definitely lends itself well to the gallery’s theme is Danielle Garza, or Ellie Rex. She began creating collages as a child by cutting up her mother’s old Encyclopedias, and now creates labyrinthine, multidimensional collages. Garza developed a unique technique to achieve this result, and coats each layer of the collage in epoxy-resin, which hardens and appears almost like glass after it’s cured. Garza admits that many of the images found within her collages first revealed themselves to her in dreams. She even keeps a dream journal that she refers to while working.
Like Danielle Garza and Juliette Hayt, Kevin Cheng is also a painter, as well as an illustrator. I was immediately drawn to his work, which has a palpable fragility, with drawings based off of photos Cheng takes of himself, that evolve into tender creatures that sprout flowers from their heads or contain other fantastical elements.
Cheng’s work is inspired by the tenuous relationship between life and death. He explains the moment he became aware of it, “Well, it started in a park while I was lying in the grass after having done some “substances,” and I remember lying there and feeling extremely elated, very satisfied, but at the same time I felt a constriction, a kind of clench; it was a strange tension that brought me to what I make drawings about now.”
After speaking with some of the artists and seeing their work in person, it’s become clear to me that visual art is one of the few things for which words do little justice. I can only implore you with the representations and descriptions in this article, and trust that your subconscious will be tickled enough to spend a night exploring it intimately.
As a bonus, my good friend Elysse Dumont and I will also be providing dream interpretations at the event. Our names for the evening will be Delphine DeJoie (me) and Amelie DeJoie (Elysse), and we’ll offer insight into the visions that color your sleep. We’ll also have calming scented blends courtesy of Pulse Organics to assist guests in achieving a more pleasant sleep.
Guests can also look forward to of “Numinous,” presented by Camila & Vestalis Pizarro, an interactive geometric dome that will engulf reclining participants in an augmented reality. Acclaimed artist and body stenciler Chase Koopersmith will also be on-hand to texture attendees with geometric creations.
The evening’s soundtrack will be provided by Steve the Astronaut, with a guest appearance by experimental folk outfit Suntundra Moon.
Address: 224 E. 11th St., Los Angeles, CA
Complete artist repertoire and websites for further information:
EllieRex (Danielle Garza)
Deeper Understanding (of Everything is Terrible)
Video & Sound Installation