Book Review: “Art from Dreams” by Susan Levin

"Art from Dreams" by Susan Levin
“Art from Dreams” Book by Susan Levin

“Shielded behind rusted armor
the murderer runs
from the detective who’s
searching for a vanished life.
Time to examine evidence,
Turn myself in”

There are books about art, and there are books about dreams, but there are very few books that seek to knowingly bridge the gap in being a book about both dreams and art.  One might argue Jung did this with Liber Novus (the Red Book) and that Blake paved the way with his mystic visionary work, each using artistic expression as an integral part of the process of accessing a deeper knowledge not only of the Self, but of the wider world, even the World Soul.

While many artists have been inspired by their dreams, in her new book “Art from Dreams,” Susan Levin seeks to consciously reveal her dreams through her visual and written art.  This results in both a process and product that is at once deeply personal and self reflective, whilst also exposing the symbolic references that speak to us collectively.  It is the deliberate Jungian inspired mining of the subconscious, and the transparency of approach that makes this book unusual.

Levin uses this book to “turn herself in” by exploring her dreams with a Jungian approach as she
“excavate(s) the night
searching for beginnings,
unearthing symbols, images.”

Her works, in poetry, assemblage and collage form, reflect a symbolism and use of archetypes that dream workers will find familiar and enticing.  “Art From Dreams” offers a collection of her works, with no commentary aside from the introduction, leaving photos of the art and some accompanying poetry to speak for itself.  This is important, as “explaining” the works would reduce them to an end result, whereas viewing them as a part of a process enables the viewer to participate in the works, bringing their own subjective point of view and understanding of symbols to the creations.

Dreams are often said to contain the “flotsam and jetsam” of our lives, the left-over material we see, experience and absorb, and then try to make sense of.  Levin leverages this metaphor and turns it inside out. The literal collection of objects and images gather to form a language that speaks to us of a “sacred journey” that is far more than accidental.  Levin’s art includes found and re-used items such as shells, driftwood, bottles, bird cages, eggs, clocks and keys. These “treasures, gifted by the tides” are montages of an inner world Levin seeks to share with us, and in doing so, reveal more of her own hidden psyche to herself.

It is this process that I feel makes “Art from Dreams” so compelling.  The art itself has a familiar symbolic and yet elusive, dream-like quality.  But by openly sharing her own process of Self-exploration, Levin invites us into the private world of her subconscious, and takes us far enough that we begin to recognise the collective realm of dreams that is shared by us all. Where this book works is as an exploration of the creative process, and a reflection upon the mysteries the psyche and how it communicates in a rich visual language.  What I feel may be lost a little in the book form is the visceral reality of Levin’s work, particularly the free standing sculptures.  I have not viewed these works in real life personally, but believe there would be an important dimension of concrete solidity that would lend an interesting dimension to these art works.  As dream workers, we are more accustomed to accessing creative works on the page, either in written or visual form.  To be able to experience something tangible, something solid and textured and three dimensional would, I believe, create an interesting dynamic between the concept of the dreamed and the created, the witnessed and the experienced.

“Art From Dreams” offers a privileged peek into subconscious of an artist who is taking the advice of Jung to “clarify (her) vision by looking inside her heart”, clearly inspired by his famous words that “Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.”

You can buy the book here:
Art from Dreams: My Jungian Journey in Collage, Assemblage and Poetry

The Red Book (Philemon)

or the more affordable version:
The Red Book: A Reader’s Edition (Philemon)

Eternity’s Sunrise: The Imaginative World of William Blake

Image taken from "Art From Dreams" by Susan Levin
Image taken from”Defended Woman” in “Art From Dreams” by Susan Levin

You can buy the book here:
Art from Dreams: My Jungian Journey in Collage, Assemblage and Poetry

Regular readers of this blog will know that I find the expression of dreams through all creative forms to be fascinating, and would recommend the following resources for those seeking more artworks consciously inspired by dreams:

2 thoughts on “Book Review: “Art from Dreams” by Susan Levin

  1. Great post! Thanks for pointing us to Susan’s book. I love the idea of incorporating image and dream. James Hillman’s book, Dream Animals, uses his wife, Margot McClean’s artwork to complement his writing about dream images. The book may be out of print. It’s a lovely book which is large enough to include prints of her art work.

  2. Thanks so much Debra, I am glad you enjoyed the review. The “Dream Animals” book looks fascinating – will definitely add that to my already way too long wish list 🙂
    I think it may be out of print, but for anyone who is interested, there is a link to buy it second hand on amazon here: Dream Animals

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