The Branching Woman

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Branching Woman

The Branching Woman

Dream Painting by Brenda Ferrimani, for Patricia Garfield. This is Patricia Garfield’s dream from her journal dated 3/9/79, and also contained in her new book called Mourning Dove Dream Poems.

“I am with a group of professionals at a conference. We are discussing various aspects of dreaming. Several people have spoken earlier of the symbolism involved in “leaving,” referring to leaves dropping from a tree. Zal and I are seated on chairs at the front. All of us are eating. I stand up and say, “We’ve talked about ‘leaving’; I’d like to discuss the concept of ‘branching.’ I’ve had several dreams in which there was a growth. There was a woman’s head and from it grew branches, almost like antlers, but many more and more, each subdividing until it grew very thick, dense.”

I describe more and more, feeling invested and excited. I finish and there is a slight pause as the head person, to whom I’ve mainly addressed the remarks gets up and ducks under a kind of table top in front of her to get more food. Meanwhile, Zal says to me, “You did that really well,” and kisses me on the cheek.

People get distracted with the arrival of more food. This is frustrating but I still feel good from expressing myself. They are now distributing various kinds of cake. By the time they get to the table where I am now there are only a few wedges left. I express a preference for one type but don’t think I get it. There are several pieces on one plate, some to be shared with a blonde girl next to me. I just begin to eat without waiting further. One piece of cake is rather like crushed pineapple. I eat what I want.”

Brenda’s Comments:

In July of 2008, my painting of Patricia Garfield’s dream, “The Branching Woman,” was part of the “Dreams Without Borders” Art Expo, marking the 25th Anniversary Conference of the International Association of the Study of Dreams. It was a phenomenal experience to be in Montreal with dream professionals from all over the world, and to be included among an amazing group of talented artists!

On the night of the art Reception, I patiently waited all the winning artists were presented their Nancy Richter Brzeski Dream Art Awards in front of an audience of both English and French attendees. My painting was not to be eligible after winning last year, but before I could become too sad, my name was called to be honored with a new type of award, the first of it’s kind: A Dream Analysis of artwork with a Gestalt Therapist.

I was very honored and thrilled, yet at the same time a part of me wondered, “What is this award, really? Perhaps they all think I’m just a little off my rocker and in need of some serious therapy.” The award and its therapy was gladly accepted—after all it wasn’t the first time I’d required a session — and because knowing myself deeply has been the driving passion behind my art work for years. I’ve explored dreams with this motive with great rewards. My experience is always personal regardless of whose dream I’m retelling on canvas. How could it not be? I became excited and eager to work with this therapist whowould help me understand more about my own experience and the “Branching Woman” inside me.

My appointment was with Layne Dalfen, author of Dreams Do Come True and host for the IASD conference. Immediately I felt comfortable with Layne. She’s very knowledgeable, yet warm and natural in her manner. She explained that her dream work style was eclectic. We would look at the painting from many angles using Gestalt, Jungian and other methods.

We began by my retelling the dream in my own words and then I was asked to give definitions and to make associations. I described what I was trying to express, “I wanted ‘Branching Woman’ to have the feeling of being in a regal procession or even a fashion show.” Layne asked, “What is a fashion show like?” “Well, it’s highly publicized, important people come and see the latest creations. Being new and different, some of the fashions may look strange or outlandish. It’s a visual banquet,” was my reply.

We further discussed the feelings of being on stage, of being judged and the competition during a fashion show. Almost immediately, with Layne’s guidance, I began to make a bridge between what I had painted and what had been recently happening in my life. (My artwork had been featured in a 4 page article of the Boulder News, and my home open to art appreciators for two citywide studio tours.) I caught myself saying that my “style” of painting has not been in “vogue,” but lately it has been getting a lot of attention and acceptance.

I reflected back to Patricia’s dream and remembered the love and encouragement felt in the dram after she stood up and shared the vision of “The Branching Woman.” “Has anything like this been happening in your waking life?” Layne asked. It occurred to me that over the past year I had moved to a new community where several other professional artists also have studios. Two women artists in particular had embraced me as a friend, showing great admiration for my dream art paintings. Then it struck me that the three golden leaves in the left corner of the painting were the three of us! I thought I had added this golden detail only to give balance to the composition, but not so. My beautiful new friends had been my unconscious inspiration.

Next we discussed the antler-branches. I had used a bull elk as my reference. This choice, together with leaves falling and autumn colors meant for me the time in mid-life when so many women come into their full power. Also, I noticed a resemblance between the antler- branches and a brain with both right and left hemispheres. In my conversation, I mentioned Patricia Garfield, and other amazing women of her time, who had made it “fashionable” to be intelligent. This may be true, but at the same time I was casting a big bright shadow that needed to be recognized in myself. Owning my own “braininess” and being helped to know at last that it is OK to show it in public was an insight that will change me forever!

Layne further inquired about the tow small stubby horns right above “Branching Woman’s” forehead. “Do you have anything to say about that?”, she asked. “She looks a little devilish doesn’t she?” I admitted, “She’s a little Pan-like, I think.” I had desired to create in “branching woman” a mystique…something not quite human, but archetypal. Yet, even being conscious of this, the archetypal energies that had been channeled were a surprise to me!

\ We talked about Pan as a mythical creature. I described him as “a freak of nature, half human and half animal, playful, musical, charming and seductive. He was the god of fertility and very much connected to creativity. It’s the raw, sensual energy I need, but with which I often feel uncomfortable.

Thinking about Pan reminded me of my recent interest in the movie “Fur” starring Robert Downey Jr., and Nichole Kidman. The movie was an imaginary tale of famous photographer, Diane Arbus’ unconscious life, and what made her the unique artist she was. When I viewed the movie a few months ago, I was captivated and touched to the pint of tears several times! A freakish man covered in hair moves into her apartment house and she is instantly attracted. She spends time with him to take his portrait and begins to fall in love with him. “She blossoms through her relationship with this man,” I tell Layne, making an important connection for myself. Something about the love affair with the beast-man (in the movie) relates to my own life in a very powerful way, and has unconsciously manifested through the Pan-like horns of the “Branching Woman.”

In my earlier years, allowing my creative muse to take me anywhere was forbidden. With a fundamentalist upbringing, many subjects were off limits and considered “of the devil.” Deep inside I always had trouble accepting this, knowing creativity cannot be limited in this way, so I’ve always liked to peek (when I could) at the forbidden! Now, sharing my inner visions and my dream art feels like introducing to the world a freak lover.

Lastly, I told Layne that it was my conscious wish to make the head of “Branching Woman” prominent in the painting and to make the body blend in with the background, because in the dream language “there was a woman’s head”—no mention of a body. I wanted to stay true to the dream as far as possible. Layne asked me to talk for the head and say why it needed to be prominent. “I have many thoughts that need to be expressed, theories and ideas, and I wish someone to listen to me,” was the head’s reply. From this I discovered a real “headiness” to my work, and a need for balance. The body needed to be heard more. What was my body saying lately? “Pay attention to me more! Give me good, nutritious food, move me, notice me!” I have always freely admitted that I am more at home in my head than my body, but I didn’t realize it showed in what I painted.

How do I feel about “The Branching Woman: now after so much consideration? I think she’s so amazingly transformative. She was a powerful image before. Just standing in her energy enlivened me, and caused my life to expand in many wonderful ways. But now, the deeper meaning revealed through my session with Layne Dalfen, has increased my appreciation of all aspects of myself. The light and the dark are not only acceptable, but vital and relevant to the artist I am becoming. My inner perspective has been adjusted toward balance, bringing me even closer to a fuller expression of who I am.

Article published in Dream Network/Vol. 27#3 Summer Issue

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