Everyone knows the feeling: You wake up and, maybe over breakfast, try to explain a dream you had.
“There was this panda! On an airplane. It was also my mom. Then I was going through a train tunnel …”
It rarely makes any sense. Suki Anderson has the same problem, but instead of trying to tell someone her dream, she shows them.
For a little over a year, Anderson has been drawing her dreams in simple single-panel line drawings. She’ll be showing them off at Surface Noise starting Friday, May 10, in an exhibition called “Dreams and Other Little Things.” Anderson also will be showing work based on themes she chose based on letters of the alphabet.
Insider caught up with the artist to talk the unconscious, the subconscious and bartending.
Anderson describes herself as a “corporate brat.” After being born in Milwaukee and living there six months, her family moved every few years to follow her dad’s job in the corporate world of corrugated boxes. They settled down finally in Fairfield, Ohio.
Then Andersen moved to Louisville and tended bar for 14 years.
“I realized I couldn’t do it forever,” she admits. “I think it’s a young people’s game. So I went back to school at Ivy Tech in Sellersburg, Ind., to learn the programs to do graphic design.”
Before she could finish that program, she was hired by Louisville Magazine to do graphic design and has been there ever since.
Outside of work, she began two projects, which challenged her to up her drawing skills and communicate her thoughts and feelings. But she had a more personal reason to do these drawings.
“Drawing helps me quiet my brain,” she says. “I wanted some way to exercise (drawing) more, and so I created a project that would take me years to do.”
The project, a series of sketchbooks based around the alphabet, took two-and-a-half years to complete. Rather than drawing straight-forward representations, she used each letter as a jumping-off point.
“So let’s say the first one is airplane. It’s all views of when you’re in an airplane and you look out the window and you see the ground, and then you see all the buildings around, the water sources and that sort of thing,” explains Anderson.
For her exhibit, she has chosen one image from each notebook and reproduced it as an 8-inch-by-8-inch painting.
The second project is a chronicle of her dreams. Since childhood, she’s had trouble sleeping and experienced lucid dreaming, wherein she could — as a child — control and change outcomes. It’s given her a fascination and a question.
“Why does my brain speak a totally different language when I’m asleep than when I’m awake?”
She notes that the series carried a lot of challenges, and one, in particular, jumped out at her from the beginning.
“Nobody likes to hear anybody’s dreams. I’ll just say it,” she says. “Like, nobody f#cking cares, and whenever someone tells you, it’s like a story that goes and goes and goes.”
For this series, Anderson limited herself to a single drawing for each dream, like one panel from a comic book. Then her question became: How much can I convey?
She remembers the dream that started the project.
“I was in a mall parking lot and I had a rifle in my car and it was covered with a giant maxi pad. Like, I’m sitting there waiting. And maybe I’m the killer? I don’t know, you know, and I’m sitting in my car with this giant maxi pad.”
Anderson says the process has been cathartic and has clued her in to some interesting patterns.
“I had no idea I dream about guns all the time,” she says.
She also frequently dreams of water. And toilets.
Anderson isn’t the first to try to portray dreams, and she won’t be the last. But there is something about her drawings that feel eerily familiar in a way most dream art doesn’t. Perhaps it’s how literal and straightforward they are.
“People often — when they draw their dreams — it’s like these swirly things because you can’t represent dreams. But (I like) to take the story and also the (title of each piece), to try to distill a whole story into one image,” she says.
“Dreams and Other Little Things” opens at Surface Noise on Friday, May 10, with an opening reception from 6 to 9 p.m. On June 8, there will be a closing reception where attendees can buy copies of Anderson’s new book, “365 Dreams,” and see interactive creative art that Deva North has created, using sound, Anderson’s images and a diorama format.
Surface Noise is located at 600 Baxter Ave.