David Reisman

David Reisman 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.

David, who is 46, is best known for his drawings, compiled in a publication called "Foreign Objects", taken directly from his dream journals.

David turned towards his dream journals as a source of inspiration in an attempt to bring back a more personal touch to his art.

"Foreign Objects" focuses on journals from 1995 to 1996. In the journals, he would write down what he remembered from his dreams and then make drawings later.

He undertook these drawings as "a kind of discipline," faithfully writing down whatever he could recall of his dreams each morning, then adding drawings later on. As an artist, he was interested in his dreams as a source of imagery uniquely his own. Moreover, they were a limitless source – perfect for maintaining a daily practice. During this period, he amassed over a thousand dream drawings, of which nearly two hundred are presented in Foreign Objects.

Driving, 1999
Dream image
Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 21 in


10/29We're driving -- Caroline's parents are driving + Susie's inthe car. She says that she's seen Caroline's former classmatesfrom UC Santa Cruz, and even though they're showing in galleriesthey're jealous of Caroline. I say "that's because she has moretalent than they do -- she just has to use it."

The drawings appear naïve at first glance, but prove to be highly sophisticated upon closer examination, in a style vaguely reminiscent of New Yorker cartoons. Each is accompanied by a caption, sometimes just one sentence long, that briefly describes the dream (e.g., "12/10 A Memphis girl has two sets of fingernails on each finger"). Some are humorous, most are just matter-of-fact dream texts. As he explains in his introduction, he never looked to his dreams for answers or interpretations; "The most important thing was the process of remembering and recording them.".
“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.”

Going the right way, 1999
Dream image
Acrylic an canvas, 48 x 36 in


10/29I'm in an unfamiliar city onthe coast -- I help someone's family find a subway.station -- they're hungry + have missed breakfast.Then I start looking for an office building with anart gallery in it. When I ask directions because I thinkI'm lost, I find out that I've been going the right way.

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.”

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