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From The Desk Of Ann Magnuson: “I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night”

At her funniest, musician/actress/performance artist Ann Magnuson skewers pop and celebrity culture like nobody else. And there’s a lot of that skewering on her new album, Dream Girl, Magnuson’s third LP following the strangely underrated The Luv Show and Pretty Songs & Ugly Stories. Magnuson will be guest editing all week. Dream on.

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Magnuson: I planned to end my stint as guest editor with a grand finale featuring my favorite dream sequences. But there are too damn many of them! Besides, there are already online lists galore. This one, from Welcome to Twin Peaks ain’t bad except it doesn’t include some of my favorites:

Ingmar Bergman’s classic dream from Wild Strawberries
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Mia Farrow being impregnated by Satan in Rosemary’s Baby (even scarier dubbed in Polish!) YouTube Preview Image

The unnerving surprise ending from Carrie
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Every moment in the Japanese ghost-story movie Kwaidan (this isn’t technically a dream sequence, but the whole movie plays like one, even more than Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams)
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So does everything by Andrei Tarkovsky, cinema’s true poet. So many of his films, like Solaris, feel like dreams from beginning to end. There are too many bona fide dream sequences in Tarkovsky films to list but you can peruse them here on YouTube.
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This dream from Ivan’s Childhood is particularly sweet
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This one from Stalker is particularly haunted

But my personal favorite is this sequence from Nostalgia. It’s deceptively simple and deliberately slow. There are no fisheye lenses, no frenetic edits, no crazy colors, disturbing clowns, little people or pink elephants on parade. But what happens at the very end is quite profound. Working with time and poetic simplicity (as well as a legacy of Russian mysticism), Tarkovsky manages to express something that is beyond understanding.
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Clinical psychologist and University of Toronto professor Dr. Jordan Peterson brilliantly articulates this “something that is beyond understanding” in his lecture, deconstructing David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (possibly the best movie about Hollywood ever!)

Peterson gives us a crash course in Freud, Jung and why David Lynch is a “Post-Freudian” like Salvador Dali.nWhile Tarkovsky is not specifically mentioned, it’s easy to see that his artistry is far more Jungian. Peterson knows his stuff. Check out the many other fascinating videos on his YouTube channel!

I could go on and on (and have), but we’ve finally come to the end of our MAGNET-sponsored Dream Weeks. As a final farewell, I had planned on posting the 1967 American Bandstand appearance of the Electric Prunes singing “I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night).” After all, as Dick Clark says here in the clip, “It’s a gassy thing.”
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But then I discovered an incredible cover version of the song by … the Space Lady! Yes, I am admittedly late to the Space Lady Party, but now that I’m here, I’m ready to put an intergalactic lampshade on my head and trance-dance until dawn! The Space Lady is spectacular! She’s renewed my faith in DIY and is my new spirit animal! Her renditions (and street performances) of the songs “Strawberry Fields” and “Major Tom” are pure genius. Her version of “Across The Universe” is cosmically healing!

So this one is for all you space ladies and gentlemen. Thanks for hanging out with me these two weeks. It’s been a gassy thing! See you in my dreams!

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From The Desk Of Ann Magnuson: David Bowie And Carl Jung Rockin’ The Persona

At her funniest, musician/actress/performance artist Ann Magnuson skewers pop and celebrity culture like nobody else. And there’s a lot of that skewering on her new album, Dream Girl, Magnuson’s third LP following the strangely underrated The Luv Show and Pretty Songs & Ugly Stories. Magnuson will be guest editing all week. Dream on.

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Magnuson:  It’s hard to imagine a world without David Bowie in it, but … here we are. It’s been especially hard on certain folks in my generation. Bowie was our Starman, our Shaman, our Thin White Shape-Shifter who reimagined Jung’s archetype of the Cosmic Man as Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and, well … “Bowie.” Many of us used the easy shorthand, “Bowie” (usually said in low, revered tones), to connote an entire ethos, an artistic way of life, and…dare I say it? A religion!

Bowie first appeared to most of us as an androgynous alien, an oversexed Pied Piper in kabuki drag who led us innocent teens out of Denim Hell and into a Moonage Daydream full of hedonistic highs (cosmically enhanced by Mick Ronson’s transcendentally sexy guitar work) until Ziggy/Zarathustra/Icarus fell from the peak, hitting his own all-time “Low.”

Ironically, Bowie ran from the Dream Factory of Los Angeles into the decaying arms of Berlin to try to save his soul. Drinking himself into a vomiting mess with Iggy wasn’t exactly the healthiest way out of madness but he did manage to shake off the Ziggy persona, which was well on it’s way to becoming the haunted mask that cannot be removed. By Bowie’s own admission, Ziggy Stardust nearly killed him. Plus there was all that cocaine. Given his history, it’s somewhat of a miracle that David Bowie managed to live to the relatively ripe old age of 69. (About 112 in Rock ‘n’ Roll years.)

All this and much more is brilliantly parsed in psychologist Oliver James’ new book, Upping Your Ziggy: How David Bowie Overcame His Childhood Demons—And How You Can Too. I just finished reading it and I have to say, it’s a must read for not only Bowie fans but for anyone in the arts (especially those in the theater!) Actually, it’s a must read for everyone because, as the author stresses throughout, we all adopt personas, often self-destructively, to cope with life.

It’s known to be unethical to analyze a person one has never met. However, these days everyone is doing it with Donald Trump (with good reason.) So much so that the American Psychiatric Assn. recently issued a statement reminding it’s members to avoid psychoanalyzing presidential candidates. There is an excellent op-ed piece in the L.A. Times explaining why. Having said that, Oliver James makes a compelling analysis of how David Bowie used persona therapy to save David Jones. Given Bowie’s own interest in all things Jungian, I think he might have dug it. (Then again, he was famously private and infamously obfuscating so, maybe not.)

While many musicians adopt stage names (and some, seeking similar success, full-blown Bowie-esque personas) Oliver James points out that:

“In most cases they fell far short of Bowie … The difference was that Bowie was using personas to understand his current psychology and it’s history. Like most art of any profundity, it was an expression of his inner conflicts—but in his case it was a desperate and more or less deliberate attempt to use personas to overcome then. Ziggy may have started life as a gag through which to achieve fame, but he was also the culmination of Jones’s struggle to experience madness in a safe way, much as the ‘schizophrenese’ of his lyrical style was a way for him to be safely psychotic. It was a means to develop multiple personalities without becoming a case of multiple personality disorder … The persona therapy that was the Ziggy project was his way of dealing with his family’s myth of genetically transmitted intergenerational madness and of addressing his personality disorder, caused by the way his parents cared for him. “

Oliver James’ main theory is that early childhood experience determines personality more than genetics. Actually he doesn’t believe genes have much to do with it at all. Comparing and contrasting the histories of David (Bowie) Jones and his half brother Terry —who went fully “mad,” was committed to an asylum and later committed suicide—James theorizes that David, often teetering on the edge himself, managed to escape a similar fate because a) he wasn’t treated as cruelly as his half-brother growing up and b) Bowie was able to channel his demons via his music and persona therapy.

Every performer knows that ‘acting out’ on stage (or in any art form) is a lifesaver. Every performer (especially The Method actor) is very aware of the line that can easily be crossed—onstage and off. Crossing that line on stage makes for a great show. Crossing the line off stage makes for a very messy life.

It’s no secret that David Bowie’s life got messy. Iman helped clean it up. She has said, “We both understand the difference between the person and the persona … I fell in love with David Jones. I did not fall in love with David Bowie. Bowie is just a persona. He’s a singer, an entertainer. David Jones is a man I met.” Bowie likewise said (in 2005), “The Bowie character, for me, is strictly to be used on stage. With my family, I am David Jones, very much.” Both of them knew they had to drop the schtick with one another. Late-in-life marriages are smart that way.

Carl Jung firmly believed one had to recognize and integrate personas that compose our defensive (and often offensive) ‘provisionary’ selves in order to find wholeness and health; a process he called Individuation. Usually occurring in middle age (hence, the ‘mid-life crisis’) this self-actualization is an integration of the conscious and unconscious. The 12- step process of Alcoholics Anonymous brilliantly provides very specific steps that can lead to that integration. (In fact, Bill Wilson sought guidance from Jung himself when starting it!)

Bowie famously found sobriety in mid-life and probably engaged in some deep Jungian housecleaning. (This ain’t rock ‘n roll, this is persona-cide!) I wonder if he ever read James Hollis’ The Middle Passage: From Misery To Meaning in Mid Life? I’m on my fifth reading of it. I can’t recommend it enough. Hollis’ book is an excellent explanation of this whole process; a process that Jung believed every human being must go through.

It’s a process that Oliver James discusses very specifically in relation to David Bowie in “Upping Your Ziggy”. James’ book may, in fact, be the easiest way into Jung for novices– at least a first step. Especially for those who find The Red Book tough going.

David Bowie certainly knew his Jung. But just how deep it went, I didn’t know until I found Tanja Stark’s remarkable essay Crashing Out With Sylvian: David Bowie, Carl Jung And The Unconscious.

Tanja Stark is an artist and deep thinker who lectured on Bowie during the Australian leg of David Bowie Is…, the travelling V&A exhibit. She also made a series of very Jungian “pop art mannequins” of the various Bowie personas (featured in the extremely agonized Bowie video “Love Is Lost (Hello Steve Reich Mix By James Murphy For The DFA-Edit).” The mannequins, ostensibly commissioned by Bowie’s “team,” are now housed in the Bowie Archive in New York.

In the Bowie/Jung essay, Stark writes: “When Bowie famously sung of ‘Jung the foreman’ on Aladdin Sane, with it’s iconic ‘lightning flash’ cover and word play on sanity, it seems the artist was heralding the pivotal resonance the psychiatrist’s ideas had upon his life. Forty years later, artist Tony Oursler, Bowie’s long-term friend and director of the Where Are We Now? (2013) film clip, affirmed Bowie’s deep and abiding connection to Jung. “David Bowie inhabits Carl Jung’s world of archetypes, reading and speaking of the psychoanalyst with passion,” revealed Oursler, who also accompanied Bowie to the first public exhibition of Jung’s Red Book in New York in 2009.”

She goes on to explain that “Bowie’s often cryptic, multi-layered work … often conceptual and poetic barely touching the nuances inherent in Jungian psychology but nonetheless compellingly suggests Jung has been a central influence upon (and compass for) Bowie as both men have navigated the mysterious, sometimes perilous, depths of the psyche.”

Stark’s essay discusses Bowie’s work in connection with Jung, The Unconscious, Dream Dystopia, Mystic Myth, Personas, the Numinous … and so much more! This stuff is must reading for Bowie fans. Indeed, for all artists and dreamers!

I first learned about Tanya Stark when she replied to a Twitter post by Oliver James (who had just begun promoting Upping Your Ziggy this past May). Stark pointed James to another essay she wrote on the archetypes of death in Bowie’s work, adding, “It’s eerie to read now.” The two Bowie/Jung enthusiasts then twitter about meeting and possibly collaborating. Now that should be interesting!

Gosh, The internet really can be an astounding place, can’t it? (Trolls notwithstanding.) No wonder Bowie took to it from the very beginning. Carl Jung would have, too.

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From The Desk Of Ann Magnuson: The Far Out World Of UNARIUS With Jodi Wille

At her funniest, musician/actress/performance artist Ann Magnuson skewers pop and celebrity culture like nobody else. And there’s a lot of that skewering on her new album, Dream Girl, Magnuson’s third LP following the strangely underrated The Luv Show and Pretty Songs & Ugly Stories. Magnuson will be guest editing all week. Dream on.


Magnuson: There is nothing more cosmically “out there” than the UNARIUS Academy Of Science. Warning: This isn’t your grandma’s “science.” But it is your fairy godmother’s science!

I used to watch the UNARIES public-access show back in the mid-’80s when I first started hanging out in Los Angeles. The group’s very theatrical pageants presented personal psychodramas that involved past lives, extraterrestrials and a benevolent geriatric leader. Her name was Uriel (an acronym of Universal, Radiant, Infinite, Eternal Light), and she offered her followers unconditional love while channeling teachings and prophecies from the Space Brothers (a.k.a. advanced inter-dimensional beings who exist on higher frequencies). Oh yeah, and she looked like Barbara Bush dressed up as My Little Pony. It’s kind of hard to describe. An ex-boyfriend, who actually turned me onto UNARIUS, put it this way: “Imagine if Aunt Clara from Bewitched had a religion.” But that’s from a non-believer.

Jodi Wille is a believer. Jodi wrote the book on the Source Family and directed the extremely popular documentary about them as well. Both were hits among The In Crowd. (I’m not the only one who ascribes the current rage of young women dressing like ethereal hippie chicks to the publication of the Source Family book.) Now Jodi is doing for UNARIUS what she did for the Source Family, bringing their guileless message of love and healing to the wider world. Yes, even to the pithy cynics!

Ann: Jodi, the short film you did for The Front on the Unariuns is the perfect primer for folks just hearing about these UFO spiritualists. How can people see the film?
Jodi: Right here. They have a couple extra offerings on the site, too, including the article “What Is Psychodrama?” written by the Unariuns and Songs For Space Travelers, a ’60s and ’70s spiritual underground music playlist I curated.

Ann: Tell me what is so important about the UNIARIUS message, especially during this election year.
Jodi: Our world is such an apocalyptic mess right now. Anyone who can move past the cynicism and hopelessness, bring deeper meaning to our lives and point a possible way forward has value. Unariuns are unrepentant idealists who believe that there’s no greater power in the universe than love and that the future of planet Earth is positive and progressive. They don’t deny their dark side but aim to transform and heal it through self-examination and creative expression—painting, writing, singing, dancing, etc. Whatever they’re doing works for them and encourages them to be decent, caring people, the kind of quiet Americans who help hold this country together. If only we could get Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton—hell, most of Congress—to do a past-life psychodrama therapy session together re-enacting their regrettable deeds in the Orion galaxy 100,000 years ago, we’d have unicorns (or at least alpacas) grazing on the front lawn of the White House.

Ann: I vote unicorns! I wonder if the UNARIUS members used dreams in their work with psychodrama therapy? Certainly those films and plays they make are quite dream-like. Nearly all the stories represent the archetypal hero’s journey. Even if one doesn’t believe in the “reality” of past lives, the Unariuns have recreated legitimate archetypes that live within each person, spinning modern myths in a culture that has lost touch with essential life-transition rituals. Since we don’t have many left, we must create our own. UNARIUS seems to me a trippy example of how that can be done.
Jodi: Exactly. Plus, because of their practices, which aim to enhance their psychic and intuitive abilities, the Unariuns have extremely vivid dreams. They communicate with benevolent spirits and extraterrestrial beings in their dream state and receive personal guidance and revelations that frequently benefit them in their waking lives, even sometimes resulting in radical physical healings.

Ann: What are the similarities between the Source Family and UNARIUS?
Jodi: Both groups attracted a number of very good-looking, creatively talented, idealistic young people who were willing to dedicate themselves entirely to the experience. Both had charismatic leaders who are still beloved by most members of the group and who had a highly original, audacious sense of style—both in their teaching methods and in the way dressed. Both groups produced creative work (Source Family: music; Unarius: films and videos) that for decades was disregarded or mocked by many but that in recent years has become increasingly collected, respected and even revered by certain music and film aficionados, fashionistas, writers and artists.

Ann: How do millennials react to all this? So many young people were dressed up in cosmic retro-wear at the premiere (in L.A. at the Standard, Hollywood). Do you see a hunger for deeper meaning, healing and spiritual life—no matter how that may manifest—in an increasingly narcissistic culture?
Jodi: Absolutely. So many of the Source Family and UNARIUS fans I’ve met in their 20s and 30s seem to be drawn to the DIY collective and idealistic aspects of the experience, people coming together in a creative, wildly outside-the-box way to create a world they want to live in. The so-called kitsch and far-out aspects of both groups bring provocative, aesthetically exciting and even slightly dangerous elements, adding allure and a high playfulness that other spiritual groups and practices and things like yoga don’t really have.

Ann: How would you best describe Uriel, a.k.a. Ruth Norman (the spiritual leader of UNARIUS.)
Jodi: Today my friend Jon described her as “Divine meets Carlos Castaneda.” I like to say “Imagine if Glenda the Good Witch had a baby with Liberace on a spaceship.”

Ann: That’s the perfect description! What lies ahead for you and UNARIUS?
Jodi: We just returned from mounting an 100-piece UNARIUS art, photo, film and artifact exhibition at the Horse Hospital arts center in London, and I’m currently developing the material into a project I’m very excited about but can’t talk about yet. Meanwhile, on October 8-9, UNARIUS is hosting its annual “Interplanetary Conclave Of Light” weekend at their center in El Cajon, Calif., and the public is invited. This will be their biggest celebration in years, and they’ll have a full tour of the center including the video lab, printing press and costume room, with special workshops, a trip to the Space Brothers landing site, a procession down Main Street with banners and the Space Cad (which will release 33 white doves) and a screening of a brand new transfer of their 16mm masterwork The Arrival.

Ann: Wow! I better dig out my purple Quina gown and silver lamé cape and get down to El Cajon!

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From The Desk Of Ann Magnuson: Kitty Brophy

At her funniest, musician/actress/performance artist Ann Magnuson skewers pop and celebrity culture like nobody else. And there’s a lot of that skewering on her new album, Dream Girl, Magnuson’s third LP following the strangely underrated The Luv Show and Pretty Songs & Ugly Stories. Magnuson will be guest editing all week. Dream on.


Magnuson: Kitty Brophy is an artist whose time has come. Until recently, her erotic, psychologically raw, politically charged and deeply personal art was practically unknown. But in 2017, it will be featured at the Museum of Modern Art in a show about the neo-dada cabaret/arts lab/funhouse Club 57. I first met Kitty at that club when I was the manager (1979-1980). Gorgeous Kitty was moonlighting as a model and dating artist Kenny Scharf. Kenny was among a group of art students from SVA (that included Keith Haring, John Sex and Wendy Wild) who gravitated to the club. Kitty was part of that gang, and together with many other bright young things, we ran amok. Kitty is one of the smartest, wittiest women I know and not only is she still modeling (her latest shoot, “Beautiful Mess,” in Territory is to die for!), she is making art with a vengeance. Her work has recently been shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson.

Ann: Kitty, when did you start making art?
Kitty: As soon as I could hold a crayon. I wanted to be a fashion designer or illustrator. In the first half of high school my art was more decorative- and design-oriented, and then in the second half, after I started having sex, taking drugs and drinking a lot, my art started to reflect that. I was also dealing with manic depression, which wasn’t helped by all the hormonal changes and self-medicating. So, you take all those things—plus the music of David Bowie, T.Rex and Patti Smith—and my art went from pretty and nice to disturbed, imbued with dark humor, text and poetry. The work became much more sophisticated, with more nudity and costuming of my models, and I started putting in S&M design elements where the women were in positions of power, humiliating the men who had wronged them. And I still was voted artist of the year at my high school and was accepted into seven top art schools.

Ann: Damn, you went to a more progressive high school than I did! When Kenny first showed me your early work, I was blown away! We wanted to make sure it had a prominent place our East Village West show at Royal-T in 2011. I know it was disheartening to have the male artists at the time, like Keith and Kenny, getting all the recognition but did it ever stop you from creating?
Kitty: My teachers at Parsons were not encouraging or positive about the kind of work I was creating which was very disheartening. Keith and Kenny were both very encouraging to me, and loved my art, but their careers were starting to take off and they had to focus all of their energies on that. It was an immensely creative time in all artistic disciplines, but the kind of small delicate line drawings I was doing—that dealt with issues of female sexuality, powerlessness, depression, and repression—didn’t seem to fit in with the bigger, more colorful art usually representing the 1980s. I eventually dropped out of art school. I worked as a model, paid and unpaid, in NYC and Paris from 1979-1986, but mostly in the early ’80s. When I got clean from drugs and alcohol in early 1985, I stopped doing any art for 12 years and focused more on writing.

Ann: Your art gives a strong, unashamed voice to the female libido including “forbidden” sexual urges, frustrations and anger in ways few women at the time—or even now—dare express. What were your influences?
Kitty: My biggest artistic influence was Aubrey Beardsley, who I discovered in my senior year of high school. What he did was revolutionary in terms of using ink-line drawing and various printing methods to produce art that was not only incredibly beautiful, but oftentimes sexually charged and decadent. His drawings of men walking around with gigantic penises and women looking powerful and sexy moved me away from straightforward representational depictions to a more fantastical autobiographical one; oftentimes filled with sex and violence. I saw my art and writing as a way to own my sexuality, my body, my gender fluidity, my anger, my desires, and to use it to freely express everything and anything. I wish I had known about all of the amazing women artists and the work that they were producing in the 1970s, but it was much harder to get information then and it sure wasn’t being taught in schools.

Ann: You once told me, “Most of my art comes from my ‘id,’ when the conscious part of my brain shuts down and allows the creativity and thoughts to flow freely.” This is a good description of the dream state. Do you ever work directly with your dreams?
Kitty: I have very involved, vivid, Technicolor, dreams, like movies. Through them I live in an alternative reality, much like the depiction in The Matrix. But it’s really that moment upon waking, that semi-conscious state where the ideas start to take shape. I can also get into that state late at night when there are no distractions. Or while hiking in nature. Some of my drawings and paintings take days or even weeks to fully gestate into a reality. I keep extensive art journals filled with writing, sketches, ideas, many of which I never produce. It’s not about that. I never force anything. It’s almost as if I have to go into that near sleep state while sitting in front of my paper to begin. Anytime, I plan or try to force out a vision, I end up tossing it. My art has to flow out of my hands the same way it flows into my brain, with minimal interference from my conscious self.

Ann: The Memory Card Project you participated in is great. Those are illustrated poker-sized cards that look almost like snapshots of dreams. Yours really capture the realm of the subconscious complete with a hallucinogenic desert vibe and talking reptilians! I love that they’re for sale at MOCA Tucson. Exit through the gift shop!
Kitty: Those were fun to make and are very id-oriented. I chose to mix Sonoran desert creatures with faces and text, using a limited color palette.

Ann: Tell me how your experiences in the meat market of fashion influenced your work. Did art help you survive the indignities of that industry?
Kitty: When I was a young model, I was subjected to a lot of sexism and sometimes even expected by my agents to go out with men and sleep with them (which I never did) in order to further the agency’s image. That was one of the many reasons why I eventually quit modeling. I saw myself as a professional doing a job, but that wasn’t always how others saw or treated me and the other models. A lot of this anger and humiliation did end up in my early work. In almost all of my art, past and present, the women are in positions of power, and the men who have wronged them are the ones being subjected to degradation and punishments. But then there are also the early works that depict my depressed and discouraged mental state where all the characters act out in suicide or homicide.

Ann: I’m so glad you acted out in your art and not real life! Art really does save lives! We were lucky to have that amazingly rich “alternative” universe known as the punk-rock/new-wave counterculture scene in downtown New York. And lucky, we survived it!
Kitty: I’m so fortunate to be an artist and writer and have a creative outlet for whatever goes on inside my head. Now, my life is wonderful, and I am in a stable, healthy place mentally, emotionally and physically. I still use my art and writing to express personal or larger issues of living life as a woman and human being. I’m not sure we’ve really come a long way, baby, so I keep putting it out there. Judging by how many young fans I have who relate and identify with my work, I see that world peace and gender equality still has a very, very long ways to go.

Ann: Thank you, Kitty. You continue to inspire. And I assure you, we both have come a long way, baby!

Good interview here as well.

Another photo after the jump.

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From The Desk Of Ann Magnuson: Dream Ballets

At her funniest, musician/actress/performance artist Ann Magnuson skewers pop and celebrity culture like nobody else. And there’s a lot of that skewering on her new album, Dream Girl, Magnuson’s third LP following the strangely underrated The Luv Show and Pretty Songs & Ugly Stories. Magnuson will be guest editing all week. Dream on.

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Magnuson: One of the greatest tropes in contemporary Dreamology is the Dream Ballet. But it wasn’t always a trope. When Agnes de Mille first incorporated ballet-as-dream-sequence into Rogers & Hammerstein’s 1943 musical Oklahoma!, the dream ballet was a radical departure from standard musical-theater storytelling. In fact, preview audiences were reportedly so bewildered at the then-unconventional approach that one of the producers secretly sold off his shares during intermission at the New Haven opening.

De Mille’s choreography condensed the agonies of the classic ‘good girl vs. bad girl’ personality split into an 18-minute psychological thriller.

The New York Times, in their original review of Oklahoma! called the dream ballet, “a first-rate work of art … it actually carries forward the plot and justifies the most tenuous psychological point in the play, namely, why Laurey, who is obviously in love with Curly, finds herself unable to resist going to the dance with the repugnant Jud. Many a somber problem play has … failed to illuminate it half so clearly after several hours of grim dialogue. Yet this is a ‘dance number’ in a ‘musical show’!”

Hammerstein initially wanted a circus scenario to end act 1. De Mille fought for her ballet. “Girls don’t dream about the circus.” She said, “They dream about horrors. And they dream dirty dreams.”

They sure do!

Of course, Freud was all the rage in progressive New York arts circles back then. Innovators like Ruth St. Denis and Martha Graham (and De Mille) were making dance increasingly more “modern.” Surrealism had already made its mark (Elsa Schiaparelli’s surrealist fashions—in collaboration with Dali—were featured in Vogue) and the Kurt Weill/Ira Gershwin musical Lady In The Dark (about an unhappy fashion-magazine editor undergoing psychoanalysis) ran on Broadway in 1941. Hitchcock’s Spellbound–with the famous Dali dream sequence—would appear in 1945.

The movie version of Oklahoma! wasn’t made until 1955. (The original Broadway production ran for an unprecedented 2,212 performances and then, of course, there were the road tours, foreign productions and revivals.) In the film, innocent farm girl Laurey (played by a young and very dewy Shirley Jones; later to become the singing mom in The Partridge Family) is unable to fight off the advances of “repugnant” Jud (Rod Steiger, at his rough-hewn meatiest.) The saucy saloon girl scenes are so much more exciting than the prim goings on at the goody-goody square dance. The loose women of the saloon are absolutely faaaaabulous! They look like high-fashion models photographed by Avedon, drenched in Technicolor and “throwing shade” like nobody’s business! Once again, ‘hos trump the hoe-down.

Of course, classical ballet has been using the dream as a plot point for … well, probably ever since it was invented. Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite is mostly all a dream. The ballet blanc, or white ballet (where the ballerinas all where bell-shaped, ankle-length tutus), became an audience favorite thanks to the second acts in the 19th century ballets La Sylphide and Giselle. In each, ghost ballerinas live in a dark wood and seek revenge on caddish men who wronged the sisterhood.)

When I went to see the Mariinsky Ballet do Don Quixote several years ago, I have to admit I didn’t know what to expect. I knew about the Spanish pas de deux at the end. (Mostly because the Mikhail Baryshnikov/Gelsey Kirkland version was endlessly played on PBS back in the day.) But I had no idea there was a dream ballet in act 2. It was the most enchanting thing I’ve ever seen!

Don Quixote is knocked unconscious after fighting his famous windmills, then dreams of dancing in an enchanted garden with his beloved Dulcinea along with an adorably androgynous Cupid plus a corps de ballet of mythological creatures called the Dryads. It was the trippiest, sweetest thing I’ve ever seen! And so innocent! Like the pastoral scene in Disney’s Fantasia with the hunky centaurs and sexy centaurettes!

Perhaps the most luscious ballets seen in the movies are the ones from filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. All of The Red Shoes (1948) plays like a dream and Tales Of Hoffman, a 1951 film adaptation of Jacques Offenbach’s opera fantastique (which was first performed publically in 1881) is beyond fantastique!

Gene Kelly gave us old Hollywood glamour and Technicolor eye-candy in the dream ballet sequences in An American in Paris and Singin’ In The Rain. His number with sexy gangster moll Cyd Charise is one of the sexiest things ever committed to celluloid!

Sex does seem to be the common denominator in dream ballets. In fact, it just became blindingly clear to me what the Oklahoma! dream ballet is … it’s the ancient Greek myth of Persephone! Abducted by Hades during the autumn harvest and taken to live in the Underworld as his queen, Persephone was ravaged all winter. Her mother Demeter weeps until the spring, when her daughter returns. Above grown, she blossoms like the budding plants, bringing fertility to all (and a successful crop for the next harvest, when she then has return to Hades for another cycle of winter sorrow.)

Oklahoma farm girl Laurey is Persephone. In her “dirty dream,” Laurey discovers the darker passions of sexual desire from repugnant Jud and the underworld saloon girls. Only after she has learned what goes on “in the dark” can return to handsome cowboy Curly whom she marries (and will eagerly procreate with), then the corn can grow as high as an elephant’s eye!

OK, it all makes sense now.

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From The Desk Of Ann Magnuson: Frank Holliday

At her funniest, musician/actress/performance artist Ann Magnuson skewers pop and celebrity culture like nobody else. And there’s a lot of that skewering on her new album, Dream Girl, Magnuson’s third LP following the strangely underrated The Luv Show and Pretty Songs & Ugly Stories. Magnuson will be guest editing all week. Dream on.


Magnuson: I’ve known Frank Holliday since 1978 when we first met in New York City and let our creative freak flags wave high all over town. Whether at Club 57, Mudd Club, Danceteria, the Pyramid Club or touring “on the road,” we collaborated on many wacky shows, always laughing ourselves into a kind of sublime ecstasy. Tragically, many of our cohorts and beloved friends from that time died. AIDS was our Vietnam. Frank nearly died as well. By the grace of something too mysterious to name, he (and I and a few lucky others) survived.

To try to condense all Frank Holliday has done (and continues to do) here would be impossible. He has been a dancer, a teacher, an actor, a set painter, a world traveler, a writer and always, always an artist. His art career didn’t really take off until later in life, when he got the Pollock-Krasner And Gotlieb Grant the same year. Now Frank Holliday paintings sell for six- figure sums and show all over the world. He recently had a huge success in Singapore and is now in Rome painting a show for the Carlo Biolotti Museum in the Villa Borghese. Frank’s art is some of the dreamiest I’ve ever seen. I recently emailed him in Rome and graciously took time out from finishing 40 paintings to talk about art, dreams and cheating death.

Ann: Frank, your work definitely channels a dream state. It’s like you have captured the essence of the Numinosum, in all its colorful abstract variations; channeling the divine essence of nature—weather, landscape, emotion—abstract but still specific. It’s as if your brushes are dipping in the quantum field itself! There is a divine way you use color that has a healing aspect to it. I also get vibes of Turner and William Blake. I look inside your paintings and get lost, just like slipping out of consciousness and into a dream state, into a place that makes me feel better after having been there. Carl Jung talked about the healing power of the numinous. Art has always been a way to channel that mystery. How do you feel when you are making your work? Are you in a kind of dream state? Do you ever dream about your paintings? Do your paintings dream of you? 😉
Frank: OK. I will try to be brief. Numinosum….. My life changed when I woke up in a hotel in Washington, D.C. I was painting costumes for Disney’s Beauty And The Beast (or, as we called it, Beauty And The Fucking Beast), and I was naked huddled in a corner covered in sweat as the phone kept ringing. I had been in the room for three days. I had a fever of 104, and I knew I was dying. I just knew it. Disney was on the phone screaming, “Where the fuk are you?!”  They could give a shit that I was sick and basically fired me.

I knew I had to go home to North Carolina if I were to die. I didn’t want to return home in the baggage department. Well, the doctors informed me that I had three months to live and that I should go home get my ducks in a row and basically just go die. It was amazing how calming this was, scary but calming.

So I had a bit of time where my life flashed before my face. Things started to appear as what is important: my life, paintings, friends. The black cloud that had been chasing me had swallowed me. Yet, once inside the cloud, it was calm and crystal clear. The pain was in everyone else’s face, not on mine. I don’t know what I experienced in those three days in the hotel, but it was a battle of my life. I was not in charge.

Two weeks later the medications appeared from Dr. Ho that saved me as well as the lives of so many others. That’s cutting it kind of close.

While I was dying, my mother had paintings all around, and I realized I had already made beautiful works. Before that moment, I had convinced myself that I was a failure, I wasn’t Keith Haring, I wasn’t Kenny Scharf … I was a failure. I wasn’t special. But that was their path not mine, and mine would look different even if there was no glitter. I decided to try and make my goal in the work to achieve the peak experience, my experience in my work and find out whom Frank was. Twenty years later, here I am. Alive.

Numinous hits on the sublime as well as beauty and trauma; sublime is described by Kant as a moment that creates awe but is different from beauty because it is mixed with terror. The closest thing I have ever seen to it is standing on the West Side Highway watching, in real time, the World Trade Center towers collapse. Everything slowed down, and the visual detached from the emotion for a second where you couldn’t believe what was happening. But it was awesome in the disbelief. It was a dream. Time was suspended.

In my work I have been struggling with the representation of Sublime. I don’t want to illustrate what this super state is. I don’t want it to be simulacra. It needs to feel like nature but not be a picture of nature. I need to give enough of familiar triggers so one can enter into the emotion space but it has to open the viewer up to possibilities instead of define them. If something is too abstract, it is just decorative.

How do I define that moment where the spirit detaches from the viewer and lets a suspension of disbelief of reality happen? It needs to be endless and vast in the mind. Kant always used images of nature. Volcano erupting, storms tornadoes. And how, although dangerous, they are vast and beautiful and awe-inspiring.

But I am dealing with a flat object that is basically earth, which I have to transfer into sensory language, beyond the word.

All of these natural sublime events are an accumulation of pressure, relief, and renewal necessary succession to propel us forward. Dreams are the interior version of this need. Dreams allow us to reassemble the confusion of life so a change of perception can occur.

Ann: Yes!!!! Wow! Frank, your life is a shining example of Jung’s alchemical theories of transformation, turning psychological base metals (harsh experience) into gold (art, wisdom, longevity!). Yours is the quintessential hero’s journey! (Joseph Campbell taught us all about it in that famous PBS Bill Moyers seriesJung says the fire is something we must go through to burn off the dross of the provisional self; part of that is the conditioning that we must acquire wealth and fame to feel “worthy.” Jung used to express sadness when his patients told him they had gotten a job promotion. “That’s too bad,” he’d say, because he knew it would prevent them from pushing past their egos and achieving what he called Indivuation. Conversely, Jung gleefully opened a bottle of champagne upon learning they’d been fired. Now we can really get to work, he’d say! You are the wisest man I know, Frank. You, and your art have a lot to teach us all!

Suggested reading
The Middle Passage: From Misery To Meaning In Mid-Life by James Hollis
Swamplands Of The Soul by James Hollis
The Religious Function Of The Psyche by Lionel Corbett

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From The Desk Of Ann Magnuson: Joe Berardi Agrees — Ginger Baker Is The Cosmic Man!

At her funniest, musician/actress/performance artist Ann Magnuson skewers pop and celebrity culture like nobody else. And there’s a lot of that skewering on her new album, Dream Girl, Magnuson’s third LP following the strangely underrated The Luv Show and Pretty Songs & Ugly Stories. Magnuson will be guest editing all week. Dream on.

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Magnuson: The Cosmic Man is a Jungian archetype that represents the most positive, generous, divine and complete aspects of human development. Jesus Christ, Buddha, Vishnu and even Santa Claus are examples of this cosmic being. So is Adam, first man on earth. So is David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust. “There’s a starman waiting in the sky/He’d like to come and meet us/But he thinks he’d blow our minds”

The Cosmic Man shows up a lot in my dreams. He usually looks like Bowie—combined with the Hindu deity Vishnu and the guy in the Alex Grey painting “Psychic Energy System”

When we kiss it looks like this. Oh yeah, these are goooooood dreams!

Sometimes The Cosmic Man is someone different. Sometimes it’s one of my ex-boyfriends (at the beginning, when wer first met when he was super lovey-dovey, before he “turned”). Once it was Brian Eno. One time—and one time only—it was the drummer from Cream. That may have been one of the most Christ-like Cosmic Man-ifestations of all. Ironic, since Ginger Baker was known to be quite unpleasant on a lot of levels. But his drumming was transcendent, and the days before this dream I had watched several documentaries about him (plus that amazing Royal Albert Hall concert in 1968.)

In the dream, Ginger Baker, dressed all in white (and looking a lot like Ted Neely in “Jesus Christ Superstar”) had built a massive geodesic dome/drum kit/jungle gym/art installation in the yard of the house where I used to babysit. This creation was made of glistening white material that, at first, looked like plastic but was much harder, like metal but opalescent. It was definitely something alien and it glistened in the sun. Ginger was playing this thing like a giant drum kit and the sound that emanated from it was so divine, so sublime, so healing that I wept for joy. I woke up feeling sooooooo good … and that feeling lasted quite some time.

I knew there was something to all this—something about Ginger Baker’s connection to Africa—that held an important secret. A deep, primal secret that only something like Ibogaine could truly reveal to me. But I’m too chicken to take that! Instead I called up my pal, drummer Joe Berardi (whose wonderful work is on every track of Dream Girl).

Ann: Joe, as a drummer can you tell me what it was about Ginger Baker’s artistry that separated him from everyone else?
Joe: Well, first let me say that Ginger Baker has been a huge influence on me as a drummer since I first began playing as a young teen. He had the whole package back then, from his instantly identifiable sound to his cool wild man look. You could tell he wasn’t faking it in any way; he was always totally inside the music. One of the reasons for his original sound was his study and knowledge of African music and drumming. He learned this from his first mentor and teacher, a British jazz drummer named Phil Seamen. Seaman introduced him to the African rhythms, but also introduced him to heroin. You gotta take the bad with the good, I suppose. Both of those things seem to have stuck with Ginger for most of his life.

Certainly his drumming was shamanic, healing in its own wild-man pagan way, maybe not quite as calming as it was in my dream! In real life it seems to me he was the embodiment of what Jung called The Shadow, that darker (usually naughtier) part of us all that we usually keep hidden.
The African tradition is one of ritual and trance, and Ginger learned that lesson well. In every video you see of him, he is always playing in the moment, achieving that “flow” or “the zone,” where you completely lose yourself in whatever it is you are doing. It’s a way of approaching music that you find in many foreign culture, like African, East Indian, etc, but not so much in Western culture (except maybe improvised jazz or rock), where musicians learn the music and then faithfully reproduce it. Ginger was certainly in tune with that trance-like approach to music making.

Didn’t you once recreate the famous drum solo “Toad” for a film?
Yeah, that’s a good story. As a 14- or 15-year-old trying to learn how to play drums, I used to play along to “Toad,” and pick up licks and ideas as it went along. I wasn’t fully aware of it at the time, but it’s just full of African rhythms, punctuated by his unique use of tom toms. It definitely left its mark on me, and that actually directly came in handy many years later. A friend who has a recording studio and does work for films called one day and asked if I was familiar with “Toad.” He had a client who was using part of the drum solo to underscore a fight sequence in a film. They could afford the rights to use the song as a piece of music, but could not also afford the rights to use the Cream recording of it, so they needed someone to recreate it for the film. Of course, I was the perfect guy for this gig! We took two full days in the studio, and I relearned the solo as best I could, also recreating the drum sound he had back them. It was a lot of work and a huge challenge, but in the end it came out great and I was very proud to have gotten so close to sounding like Ginger. It took me right back to being in my teenage bedroom playing along to the record with headphones on.

How great!
Yeah, well the sad ending is that after we completed it, the film company ended up also getting the rights to use the Cream version, so my version never got used in the film. But still, it was an amazing experience and made me appreciate Ginger Baker all over again. Have you see that documentary called Ginger Baker In Africa that was filmed on his journey to Africa in 1970?

Oh yeah! That was part of my Ginger Baker deluge!
It’s low budget, with hand held camera—like one of those old travelogues you might see in school from the 1960s. There’s some great footage of Ginger playing with Fela Kuti’s band.

That is stuff off-the-charts fantastic!
They became good friends back then, but I believe they had a major falling out, where Fela had this mafia-type gang who basically got Ginger deported, or run out of town, and he had to abandon the recording studio he had built there in Africa. It’s also outlined in the great recent doc Beware Of Mr. Baker.

Did you ever see him live?
I never saw him play live, sadly, but I had a friend who played in his band for a while when he moved to L.A. to try to get something going. Here’s a funny article from those times. Ginger Baker actually placed an ad in Music Connection to get work! My friend told me he was incredibly difficult and unreliable to work with, but he always sounded great. Apparently, they were playing a lot of music clinics as well as club concerts, and one story that always sticks with me is the time they had just finished playing a clinic and there were a lot of young people there, and this kid about 12 or 13 comes up to Ginger after the show with a Cream album or something to sign, and the kid says, “Mr. Baker, I wanted to tell you how much I love your playing, would you sign my record,” and Baker just says to him in his classic working class accent, “Fook off!” Naturally the kid was shattered and everyone was embarrassed by it. Yeah, he wasn’t much of a charmer.

Maybe not in real life but over there in Dreamland, he makes one helluva Cosmic Man!

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From The Desk Of Ann Magnuson: The Millionaire Speaks!

At her funniest, musician/actress/performance artist Ann Magnuson skewers pop and celebrity culture like nobody else. And there’s a lot of that skewering on her new album, Dream Girl, Magnuson’s third LP following the strangely underrated The Luv Show and Pretty Songs & Ugly Stories. Magnuson will be guest editing all week. Dream on.

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Magnuson: The Millionaire (a.k.a. Michael Cudahy) is a musician I’ve admired every since hearing his band Combustible Edison. I got to know him when we were part of the L.A. performance, art and music scene in the 1990s (and still are!). I asked him to sound off on dreams, composing for films and providing psychedelic orchestrations on Dream Girl.

Ann: Millie, when did Combustible Edison stop playing and you began composing film music?
Michael: CE went the way of all bands early in 1999, but we had already done some scoring, on the poorly received Four Rooms. I’m told it’s popular in Japan.

You’ve been playing with other bands since CE. Can you name a few?
I organized a short-lived Bollywood outfit, Bombay Rhythm Connection, as well as leading the band at the Velvet Hammer Burlesque, the literal mother of neo-burlesque troupes. The band had a different name at every show, so recounting them would take an entire page. One of ’em was “The Millionaire And His Maharajahs Of Melody.” Also I have done the “Johnny Sideman” trip for the legendary Prince Poppycock.

Have you ever scored a dream sequence in a film?
I just did! The dream sequences were pretty realistic, which I find incredibly disappointing when I actually have a dream. I hate dreaming about getting the mail or going to Albertsons. In this movie, the dreams were little fragments of farm life, so there was nobody running through an empty hallway in a diaphanous gown through a star filter—that’s what all dream sequences were like in the ’70s TV movies I grew up on—much less trying to kill a baby on a city-sized mahogany dirigible. That’s what I dreamed about last night.

Wow, I’d like to see that in a movie! Are there any special challenges to scoring a dream sequence. I assume there are cliches you try to avoid but, on the other hand, some work and need to be employed. After all, Alfred Jarry said, “Cliches are the armature of the absolute”.
Well, the thing I just did was short, so I didn’t have time to work in a whole tone scale. That, played on the vibraphone, is what would accompany the aforementioned ’70s TV movie dream sequence. I used a bunch of feedback and electronic noise so people wouldn’t mistake the dreams for some sort of pointless pastorale. Alfred Jarry often spoke in a deliberately annoying sort of “robot” voice. So I don’t know how much you want to rely on what that guy says.

Ha ha! Well, considering Jarry was doing that way during the turn of the 19th century, I will continue to trust him implicitly. What is your favorite movie scoring ever, of your own or others?
Oh, golly. It would probably be something by Ennio Morricone or Bernard Herrmann. Even scoring a film in the hackiest, most trite way is still a titanic achievement, and those guys managed to serve the dramatic and musical needs perfectly for pretty much every movie they worked on, while at the same time turning in innovative and distinctive work. Possibly that crane shot in Once Upon A Time In The West where Claudia Cardinale walks in to town to meet her fate, and Morricone’s score puts it all into heart-stoppingly operatic perspective. That scene seriously makes me weepy.

That moment truly is monumental! Any favorite dream sequences?
Dream sequences in movies are always disappointingly lame, because a movie can’t communicate stuff like looking at your high school math teacher but knowing he’s actually your mom (in the dream).

I know! Few get it, though Tarkovsky comes close. You have a vast record collection and encyclopedic knowledge of music and film. Can you name a few recordings that you think catapult one into a dream state without the need of drugs or R.E.M. sleep? And you don’t have to say Dream Girl, ha ha!
From beginning to end, Black Devil Doll From Hell taps into a strange associative dream-continuum that is unobtainable by conventional means. Charles N. Turner is an accidental oneirophant. Also, the entire oeuvre of pop-music-performed-on-pipe-organ recordings (Ethel Ennis, George Wright, Korla Pandit) exudes an ineffable unearthliness that knows you are trying to open the dream bug sand scroll in the intercontinental subway where they keep all those drawers that have your important life moments recorded in them. What?

That last sentence totally sucked me back into my dream from last night, where Bongwater was going to reunite but the girls from Pulsallama talked me out of it! You created some splendid orchestrations for some of the tracks on Dream Girl. Any special challenges? You can be honest!
I just kept repeating, “Don’t fuck this up,” to myself. I think it worked!

It worked beautifully! Oh, one last thing, I only recently found out you wrote the song “Annie’s Gone” for Redd Kross that I was in the video for. You know, that twisted Sid ‘N’ Marty Kroft pop confection that Rocky Schenck directed? How did that come about, you playing Boyce & Hart to their Monkees?
We were on the same record label, Big Time Records; Redd Kross were getting ready to record and they didn’t have quite enough material, so the label asked me to write some songs for Redd Kross. I loved them so was excited to do it, and I also loved the idea of that behind-the-scenes-pop-songcraft trip. The Annie in the song is the Cherie Currie character from the movie Foxes.

That movie is fantastic! And soooooo Redd Kross!
The character in the movie actually dies—hence, you know, being “gone.” At the end of the movie, the foxes are all hanging out in the cemetery, and they are talking about how Annie wanted to have a fruit tree planted on her when she died so her friends could be eating the fruit and they would say, “Annie’s tasting pretty good today,” which I think was actually one of the lines in the song. Jeff and Steve added/changed some lyrics, though, so I don’t really remember all of them! And I haven’t seen that movie in probably 25 years. The song came out on their major label debut Third Eye; I was already a big fan of yours, so when I saw you were in it, I was thrilled! It ended up taking almost 10 years before I finally met you, though. I didn’t realize until relatively recently that the video was directed by our mutual friend, the great Rocky Schenck, who also later directed a video for Combustible Edison. And now I live here, and all these people are my pals. Who knew!

It’s a small world after all!

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From The Desk Of Ann Magnuson: Jesse Weidel And The Ugly American Dream

At her funniest, musician/actress/performance artist Ann Magnuson skewers pop and celebrity culture like nobody else. And there’s a lot of that skewering on her new album, Dream Girl, Magnuson’s third LP following the strangely underrated The Luv Show and Pretty Songs & Ugly Stories. Magnuson will be guest editing all week. Dream on.


Magnuson: Artist Jesse Wiedel and I first met on MySpace. (Yes, that was a long time ago; at least in “internet time”). We initially bonded over the surreal paintings of Dan Attoe. Then I got a look at Jesse’s art I immediately became a Wiedel fan! Jesse graciously agreed to answer a few questions regarding the hallucinogenic (and frequently nightmarish) quality of his work.

Ann: Jesse, I fell in love with your art the minute I saw it! It reminded me of Jim Shaw, Mike Kelly, Robert Williams and … well, no one else. You really capture the sense of the psychedelic in everyday life as well as the decay of the American Dream. Which is why your last series, “The Ugly American Dream,” is one of my favorites. When did you first start making art? What inspires you? Dreams must be part of it, right?
Jesse: Thanks, Ann! It’s great to be compared to those great artists. I have been making art since I was a little kid. Early memories from grade school include getting in trouble with teachers for making gruesome art and getting attention from girls who would ask me to draw pictures of horses for them. I graduated from art school in 1988 and have been painting and exhibiting regularly since. I am inspired by mysterious places that are decaying and on their last legs, or simply abandoned altogether. I like to speculate about what might have caused their downfall, and then make improvisations based on these thoughts. I don’t know if it is dreams so much as lack of dreams that inspire this improvisational approach. I am kind of a light sleeper, so don’t get to dream as much as I’d like. I don’t remember my dreams very often. But when I do, they are pretty dramatic, and include tidal waves and burying bodies in the woods.

You live in Eureka, and the bizarre world of Humboldt County comes alive in your work. Can you explain what it is up there that makes it, well, so nuts? Judging from your paintings Meth Mouth and Meth Mouth 2, a lot comes from the general decay of the U.S. economy and rampant drug addiction.
It does seem to be getting harder and weirder to be a poor, working-class person. People can’t pay the horrible rent prices anymore, so they have to improvise a lot, with van living and long-term camping scenarios. Some strangeness here, I think, is that the cannabis industry has replaced the lumber and fishing industries pretty much as the main source of revenues here, and it’s still mostly illegal, so there’s some residual paranoia in the general psyche of the place. It is also pretty isolated geographically. It is quite a trek to get to any city from here. I tend to concentrate on the strange and negative aspects of the place, rather than the scenic beauty, which we have here with the redwoods and beaches that the tourists flock to each summer. Humboldt is one of the most beautiful natural places on earth. But there are just so many people painting that pretty shit—nearly everyone in my town is, in fact.

You actually find ways to make your more hopeless characters transcend their circumstances, via visions or magical realism. What are your favorite recurring elements? I personally enjoy that happy soap bubble brush. I can’t remember the toilet-cleaner product that image comes from.
The Scrubbing Bubbles? Yeah, I like to use a lot of commonplace items and elevate them to a magical status. We all have these media images in our head that we’ve gown up with—images that we just can’t shake from our minds. Scrubbing Bubbles, Mr. Clean, the Pillsbury Dough Boy. These cheerful representatives of corporate America will haunt our collective imaginations until we die! Regarding the people I depict, I try to keep them looking real, like the regular folks one finds at the liquor store, Costco or Wal-Mart, and then reorient them into some sort of dilapidated phantasmagoria. My scenarios are kind of like 21st century versions of swirling 17th century baroque paintings—just substitute the fine-looking naked Romans eating grapes and Putti floating around in the clouds with my own roiling cavalcade of contemporary drifters and ne’er-do-wells. I try to be stealthy when photographing places to reference in my paintings. I try not to photograph people for source material, because it just seems intrusive to me. I have to re-create the people according to memory, using found imagery, or pose myself.

There are elements you keep returning to: religious tract pamphlet imagery, skid row scenes, wrestlers, comic book characters …
A lot of that stuff is from crummy and dilapidated comic books I had when I was a kid, and still somehow held onto. They all have missing pages, so they don’t make much sense and I can’t really follow the narratives. These comics are more like Twilight Zone-type stuff than superhero imagery, for the most part. In my paintings, I like to see what happens when I juxtapose flat forms alongside three dimensionally modeled ones. The religious imagery in my pictures was baked into me from being raised Catholic. All that grim, religious-death-trip imagery is scary, but pretty cool once you’ve stood back from it for some years. When Jehovah’s Witnesses pay me a visit, for example, I don’t discourage them because I really dig the imagery in their pamphlets and sometimes incorporate it into my paintings. Also, for many years I’ve been collecting “biker” magazines and incorporating biker party images into my pictures. It’s good to see photos of people just standing around with drinks and guts and beards. You know, regular old ugly Americans watching and cheering on the end of days.

Has anyone every gotten mad at you for some of the intensely honest depictions of American decay you’ve portrayed?
Yes, I have gotten some people angry at me about the imagery over the years. Mostly the religious stuff is hard for people who are strict believers to accept or see the humor in. People used to come to my shows and just looked completely appalled while viewing the works. I have got a lot of surprising acceptance, though, too. One time a police officer came to one of my shows and totally dug it. He said, “Wow, these are the people I work with every day. You really nailed it!”

Any favorite dream paintings by other artists? Dream films? Dream sequences? Dream music?
Dorothea Tanning immediately comes to mind when thinking of dream paintings. Her work is truly haunted. I am currently reading a really inspirational novel by her that is called Chasm. A dream film that I love is called Dementia/Daughter Of Horror from 1955.

I love that movie!
It is silent and just gives off such a sinister vibe with all that discordant imagery of severed limbs, shadowy streets and sweaty faces. The dream sequence in Moontide with Ida Lupino is another one of my favorites.  That song “Garden” by the punk band the Fall comes to mind as a bizarre dream song; the singer mentions something about a three-legged, black/grey hog. Ann Magnuson, of course, makes the best dream music!

Hey, I wasn’t fishing for a compliment, but I’ll take it! OK, haunted trailer parks. Do they exist? Your work has a lot of trailers in them. What do they represent to you?
The Salton Sea is a total haunted trailer park! They exist! Trailers represent freedom from the tyranny of permanent architecture. I grew up around a lot of trailers, and have always liked how sporty they looked and how people modify them. You imagine everyone who lives in one looks like Evel Knievel or Bob Eubanks. Also, the portable nature of trailers makes it exciting when you see them perched in unusual places. Of course, they also represent vessels for criminal activity and sad living.

That soap-bubble character is in the painting Integratron from 2010. There is so much going on in that painting! Tell what the teeth in the sky are all about.
Jesse: The shapes in the sky were jagged-looking clouds painted in my attempt to emulate the colors and style of the paintings of Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart), who I think died that year. He was a reclusive Humboldt resident for many years. The painting is a depiction of the heavy psychic vibes coming out of the Integratron (in Landers, near Joshua Tree) causing explosive havoc through successful contact with the alien. I imagined what would happen after a serious psychic channeling episode, maybe after one of those particularly tense Integratron sound baths. You know, psychic experiments gone wrong! It could also be read as some crazy failed drug transaction and meth-lab explosion. It’s good to have a giant scrubbing bubble to clean up the mess when that happens.

You have 10-year survey show opening in Tahoe soon.
Yes, the show opens September 29 at the Haldan Art Gallery at Lake Tahoe Community College. The title of the show is “End Times Yard Sale.” The gallery space is beautiful, and huge! So I am bringing 10 years worth of work to fill the space. I am looking forward to the show! It will continue through December.

Ann: Wow, I better combine a skiing/art trip up there this winter! Thanks Jesse, it’s a pleasure sharing The End Times with ya!

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From The Desk Of Ann Magnuson: Rocky Schenck/A Hometown Dream

At her funniest, musician/actress/performance artist Ann Magnuson skewers pop and celebrity culture like nobody else. And there’s a lot of that skewering on her new album, Dream Girl, Magnuson’s third LP following the strangely underrated The Luv Show and Pretty Songs & Ugly Stories. Magnuson will be guest editing all week. Dream on.

Magnuson: I had a dream where I am back in my hometown of Charleston, W.V. I am suspended in mid-air over the Kanawha River. The river divides the town in two. On the north side, down in the valley, is the city. And on the mountain to the south are the woodsy suburbs; an area most of us just call The Hill. I am hovering about 50 feet over the murky water, very close to the bridge we used to drive over every day. From my vantage point, I can see a TV show is currently being shot in a house perched on the embankment, just at the base of The Hill. It’s a nondescript, working-class house overlooking the river, sitting on the other side of the boulevard that runs parallel to the train tracks.

Through the open garage door I see an old 1960s Maytag washer and dryer. It’s kind of messy in there, and I see there is some newly sprayed obscene graffiti on the wall. Looks like things are degenerating in this neighborhood. Just like everywhere. “Pillbillies” have been stealing silver from old ladies’ houses further up The Hill. Everyone is either tweaked out on Fentanyl or Fox News. But the city is abuzz because Jen is in town. She also grew up here. Now she is back starring in this TV show. She flew in on her private jet to play a simple housewife who lives in this simple home, simply struggling to make ends meet in a simple state that will unanimously vote Trump for president. (There is already Emmy talk.)

I’ve been hired to play one of the older ladies in the neighborhood. A group of us are rehearsing a scene. We’re all wearing Mom Jeans—Mom Jeans with muffintops. Not Jen. She may be portraying a simple but honest mountain mama with few options in life yet her forehead is wrinkle-free and her figure Pilates perfect. No muffintop on her. Or on these once beautiful West Virginia hills. The mountaintop removal company financed by the Koch Brothers has set up shop. A noxious rust-brown sludge fills the creek (pronouced “crik”) that flows into the river.

I’m not all that excited about this part I’m playing but think, maybe this means I might make enough to be eligible for the SAG-AFTRA health insurance? That is, if the star’s agents don’t suck all the money out of the budget and leave nothing for the supporting cast, which is usually the case.

I look to the west. The sun is setting behind the clouds. It’s spectacular and so dreamy. It’s in color but not really. It’s more black and white with a hint of blue-green and splashes of orange-red. It may have been digitally treated, like a David Fincher film. But this is better. Much better. Wait! It looks like a Rocky Schenk art photograph! It’s heartbreakingly beautiful. So beautiful it makes me cry. The feelings that swell up from deep within give me hope, hope that you can go home again. Back to my childhood home up on The Hill, to a time before the mountaintops were removed and West Virginia went Crazy-Ass Tea Bagger Open-Carry Wacko. The state went deep red, and that makes me very blue. But this sunset has changed everything. I’m back to being happy now! Happy to be home!

Then I wake up, confident that the image I saw in the sunset was indeed a Rocky Schenck photograph. I looked again. Yup, I had seen it the day before, in his new book, The Recurring Dream.  I also read about it in American Photographer, which featured Rocky’s incredible video of Adele’s “Hometown Glory.”

Rocky is an old pal. I’ve been in two videos he directed: Redd Kross’ “Annie’s Gone” and Jerry Cantrell’s “My Song.” Both are pretty dreamy; one kooky Sid ‘n’ Marty Kroft dreamy, the other sexy-psycho Old Hollywood dreamy. Rocky dreams a lot too. His art is also inspired by dreams. Now his dream-inspired art is inspiring my dreams. Wow! Thanks, Rocky!

Rocky Schenck/Hometown Dream Story c 2016 Ann Magnuson

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