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Splitting the Atom

Dreamed by Jim Shaw, c.1994

I wanted to rent a video at this college that looked like a 1930's high school & a couple of little kids wanted to see it & I wasn't sure they were old enough. When I went to rent it, the counter was closed.

The room was a darkened classroom, where my shrink was demonstrating atom splitting in the back corner with a glowing ping pong ball. I was glad I wasn't in that class.

Dreamer's therapist demonstrates fission in a dark classroom. Dream sketch by Jim Shaw. Click to enlarge.

SOURCE: Jim Shaw's Dreams, Jan. 1995, Smart Art Press. Dreamed 1987-95, probably 1994.


Most of Shaw's dreams seem to be about art projects--his own, or his friends'. He's perhaps best known for his show "Thrift Store Paintings", presenting anonymous, discarded art not his own. Well, here's proof, in this underlit sketch, that Shaw really can draw.

So what's this weird image mean? I'm struck by that monster-movie lighting, and his own comment "I was glad I wasn't in that class". I'd guess Shaw doesn't want his shrink to crack open his psyche, doesn't want to bare old trauma. As James Thurber said, "Let your mind alone!" Shaw likes dreams as art-inspiration, but not as prompts for deep change. Too dangerous--radiation hazard!

Or maybe just... "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

--Chris Wayan

LISTS AND LINKS: schools - nocturnes & darkness - teachers & mentors - therapy - fission & fusion - light & shadows - dreams about dreamwork? - artists & the arts - pencil dream art - more Jim Shaw

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