Date of publication in the Champaign, Ill., News-Gazette: March 29, 2005

Dreams: A new look

Brothers collaborate to create
a unique, artistic approach to dreams

Copyright 2005 The News-Gazette

   URBANA – For the foreword to his brother’s new book of dream drawings, Carl Reisman writes that opinions on the significance of dreams range from them being a by-product of digestion to a manifestation of the collective unconscious.
   He says his older brother, David, takes a middle-of-the-road approach – that they are found objects. “He rescues them with a drawing hand that I envy and opens a window into the dream further with a brief outline of the plot,” Carl adds.
   David’s dream drawings appear in “Foreign Objects” (Hornbill Press) while earlier drawings by him appear inside and on the cover of “Kettle,” Carl’s new self-published collection of poetry.
   The brothers will sign copies of their books from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday in the Author’s Corner of the Illini Union Bookstore, 809 S. Wright St., U. Also carrying copies of the books is Pages for All Ages Bookstore in Savoy.
   Carl, a lawyer with a law degree from the University of Illinois, lives in Urbana. David, who has a master’s of fine arts in painting from the UI and a doctorate in education from Columbia University, lives in New York City, where he is senior editor in the educational publishing department of 13/WNET Television.
   The two are close and grew up in a family with a rich cultural and artistic life. Their father, John, was a psychology professor who wrote five books on that subject as well as two published detective novels with a psychologist as the protagonist. Their maternal grandfather, Howard Jacobson, was an optometrist who once published a collection of his own poetry.
   Carl, 43, has been writing poems most of his life. David, who is 46, kept dream journals from 1995 to 1996 and compiled those for the book. In the journals, he would write down what he remembered from his dreams and then make drawings later.
   For him, it was a return to making more personal art, which he had created while at Illinois and while living in Kansas.
   “And then when I moved to Manhattan I did fairly abstract things,” he said. “I felt alienated from the personal stuff in my artwork, so my deciding to use my dreams as a subject matter for my artwork was getting personal content back into my work. At the same time there was an impersonal element to it because I wasn’t consciously deciding what my dreams would be.
   “You have to be open to your own unconscious thought processes and accept yourself in a funny way. There’s no right or wrong; the dreams are what they are. If you do it as a discipline you have to kind of accept and confront parts of yourself that you might not ordinarily think about.”
   Some of the dreams in “Foreign Objects” are surrealistic while others seem to be about events that are too real, for example, “A chilling scene of a live, though emaciated man, being put in an oven.”
   A drawing of a surgery carries the caption, “They’re growing skin grafts on a Ken-sized doll named Tony LaMotta.”
   A depiction of David’s daughter, Jenny, with only half her head showing above the floorboards has the narrative, “I ask Caroline (David’s wife) where Jenny is – somehow, she’s fallen asleep almost entirely covered by the wooden floor.”
   Family and his life in New York are often topics of David’s dreams, but also appearing in them are a host of celebrities such as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Francis Ford Coppola and George Burns. With the drawing of the late Burns comes the caption: “I see George Burns – he’s wearing glasses with two big diamonds in the lenses, like weird bifocals. I tell him I’m surprised to see him. He tells me it wasn’t his time to go.”
   Working on his dream drawings led David to make connections with some interesting people, including other artists doing dream-related work. One of them, Rick Veitch, wrote a blurb for David: “Reading ‘Foreign Objects’ is like visiting a Museum of Everyday Life that’s been broken down into its quantum state and reassembled as a surrealist masterpiece! David Reisman’s dream art is autobiography at its most auto-luminescent.”
   While David is leery of the fortune-telling or fake-spiritual side of dream-related artwork he believes that it does have an element of self-help.
   “While dreams are part of a private experience and dream drawings are somewhat self-indulgent,” he wrote for the preface of his book, “there’s an aspect of dream-based artwork that is potentially helpful in the same way that reading good fiction can feel liberating.”
   For Carl, writing poetry sometimes helps him keep a grip. Other times he does it just because he likes writing. The process, he said, helps clear his mind and leaves a record of thoughts and feelings.
   “I also like that language is concise,” he said. “I think there is a beauty and mystery in language that is so pared down.”
   Rather than submit his poems to poetry contests or journals, Carl decided to publish them himself.
   Before going to the printer, he had an editor at a small press in Chicago read his poems, and he asked several other writers for feedback as well.
   One of the most helpful, he said, was Julia Kasdorf, head of the creative writing program at Pennsylvania State University. She wrote a blurb for “Kettle”:
   “With the immediacy and candid gestures of snapshots, these poems capture moments in time and place. They seem to demand little of the reader and instead take her by the hand, saying, ‘Look at this!’ and ‘Look at this!’ Sometimes these glimpses into an individual’s life – family, travels – grow brighter and more significant than that one person’s story. We read Carl Reisman for those shining moments. And the line drawings, simple and fresh, are not so much illustrations as part of a dialogue with the text.”

©2005 The News-Gazette