American, born 1939
9 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches
Wichita Art Museum, Gift of an anonymous donor
Not Currently on Display
About the Artwork
Margo Kren, Artist Statement:
Dreams and Memories — Suite of sixteen lithographs
My suite of lithographs “Dreams and Memories” evolved in the early 1980’s while I was working on a series of drawings based on early childhood memories and young adult dreams. At the time in my art I was interested in individual psychology in my story telling — people with all their foibles exposed as compassionately as they are in a Flemish Renaissance painter of peasants Pieter Bruegel. I have always felt in accordance to the writings of Bertolt Brecht and especially his attitude toward his audience. He did not want people reading his works to have emotions but instead to be able to think.
With the grant I received from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1982 I began work with Michael Sims in his Lawrence Lithography Workshop in Lawrence KS on a suite of sixteen lithographs based on sixteen drawings I had selected.
Dreams and Memories (title page) – I once spent an evening with my family in Chicago watching a stage production of the musical Gypsy. In the print my Methodist minister father registers an ambivalent reaction to the performance. I stand to the left holding and protecting my figure drawings in my arms.
Awakening – An androgynous child stands alone in my studio becoming aware of an artistic and sexual awakening. Two birds perched on the edge of the bed are fighting or making love.
Sunday Morning Newspapers – Biblical themes learned as a child appear frequently in my work. In this print my husband and I assume roles of Joseph and Mary amidst the discarded newspapers on the kitchen floor. We have no children of our own — a coffee cup stands in for the baby Jesus. As we sit at the table discussing our dreams from the night before, there are a donkey and a cow (alter egos) observing from the window. A bare light bulb substitutes for the star over Bethlehem.
Pool of Blind Swimmers – The artist Max Ernst said, “An artist is a blind swimmer.” As a good painting develops slowly for an artist, he or she will work intuitively and they are never in complete control of the outcome nor do artists ever begin with a reconceived final idea. If they do have a dead set plan in advance then the piece of art will not be a particularly good one. I once had a dream there was a man on my back. In this print there is a monkey on a woman’s back.
Scene from Childhood – As a child I would at times observe my parents quarrel, my father’s ill-tempered words and my mother’s quiet indirect psychological games. They never fought physically as they do in my print. In this work I sit, my hands tied, forced to observe and unable to move up or down the ladder.
Scared in the Night – My two parents and I are sitting on the front steps of our house, scared. The starry night is reflected in the window glass or is it a view of outside which reverses to become inside the house? The moon, a female symbol, appears above my mother. The numbers “121” above the door stand for my parents’ address 121 North Jasmine, McAllen TX. The numbers also signify the split caused within me as my parents pull me apart in response to their internal fears causing them to pull me in opposing ways. I become two people.
The Dance – My father, a very busy man of whom I never saw much as a child, sits in the living room reading the evening paper. All I see are his legs below and his bald head above. Implements for croquet, one of his favorite sports, appear to be set up on the floor. I dance on top of one of the hoops trying to get his attention. I hold a picture of a pretty little good girl in a ruffled dress in front of me to hide my tomboy persona. Behind my father are the portraits of my sister and my mother observing the situation, stretching to be noticed by my father. Freud spoke of women as being in the service of a male-oriented world. In my work I have no agenda, no ideology and I make no commentary about the figures I present.
School Nurse – Two of the most formidable figures for me as a child were my gym teacher and school nurse. As children we would line up regularly for the nurse to give us shots. My drawings are short little events taking place on a stage. There is no beginning or end to the narration. I am not interested in the theater of illusion, places of dull trance-like states but instead I am curious about appearances and reality in interactions between people. This large woman with a big watch and elephantine arms and legs posed a real threat. I felt totally vulnerable. And I have purposely placed possible avenues of escape on the edge of the drawing such as an outlet and cord leading into the next room for us to flee from the unpleasant or offensive situations such as presented here. The cord suggests something like an off-stage, a place of refuge.
Hair – One of my most pleasurable memories as a child was to sit on the floor with my back to my grandmother sitting on the couch as she would comb my hair for what seemed like forever and that was perfect for me. In later years when my mother and my aunt visited their mother in a home they watched a nurse’s aide comb their mother’s long white hair. In this print my grandmother’s hair is combed by her two daughters. She sits still, her mind long gone.
Growth – Regularly I would cut my husband’s hair. I started doing it immediately after we were married because I did not particularly like the severe way his barber shaved off the soft curls at the back of his neck. Here my husband and I are portrayed as Samson and Delilah. My exposure to Bible stories in the Sunday class rooms later found their way into my work.
Street Scene – I was the jogger and also the independent traveler to Kansas City on professional trips and I was the stay-at-home, nourishing figure as well. My husband enjoyed the two types of women in his wife. A dog was used to represents fidelity in the wedding portraits of the 15th century — a dog is used here at the base of my print.
Family Dinner – My father cooks and cuts a carrot. My mother holds a loaf of Rainbow bread. She holds my brother as he struggles to free himself. I watch the situation. My sister, shown as a monkey, plays with the curtain in back of the room. Meanwhile a crucifix hangs on the right wall observing. At the top of the room is a bare light bulb that represents reality. The figures are disassociated from being in a relationship just as one would find in Neo-Realist Fellini film. I do not want to dictate how the viewer should read the art. Instead I want to give the viewer access to see a particular world. That way they can critique it and learn from it. I encourage the viewer to retain their critical detachment
Bath – In what should be an intimate relationship with my husband I shave my legs and then I cut myself. My husband while shaving his face looks into the mirror that has been placed on the toilet stool. Everything that is important is not here. Life is not tidy.
Disnaturing – The gym teacher’s authority is symbolized by the whistle hanging around her neck, giving her permission to blow it at us any time. Her winged feet give her the speed to prey and grab her victims with her long claws. Portraying the archangel she banishes Adam and Eve. They portray the loss of innocence. There are two creatures resembling anteaters that have just been transformed from a human state.
Garden – I am the gardener in my own garden musing over the original Garden of Eden — Adam, Eve and the snake.
Snake Eyes – An androgynous figure stands like the letter ”I” as in the pronoun “I” in bare proof of its humanity. A bare light bulb at the top of the room signifies the rational and three dice below on the floor represent the irrational. For Freud, in his writings, a dream of a ladder exemplified sexual opportunity.