Artist's dream inspires latest exhibit

A young girl, preparing to participate in a strange ritual, holds an oar carved and decorated with a hollowed circle shape.

When artist Beckie Mirsch Laughlin shook this image from her mind a year ago, she knew she had been awakened from more than just a dream: "When I woke up I felt all this warmth on my abdomen. There was this energy and warmth."


Mrs. Laughlin said she realized that in her dream she had been ZTC struck with the oar, and the circular impression was still tingling.

"I realize the dream had been of some tribal type of activity," Mrs. Laughlin, 44, recalled. "It was a big dream, an archetypal dream."


Mrs. Laughlin hopes to awaken the "sensibilities and recollections of ancient memories" in others through the symbolic paintings and assemblages she created as a result of that dream.

Those works will go on display Monday in a Gallery One show at Western Maryland College.

The exhibit, "Dream of a Woman's rite of passage ceremony," consists of singular symbolic forms suggestive of a nest, vase or womb, from which the artist hopes viewers will draw on the more primitive images associated with women and maturation.

The colors, materials and images in the collection share the central theme of the circle.

The decorated oars "Dream passage" and "Life's message" have ornate designs around the doughnut shape on the blade.

The blue in "Dream passage" alludes to lapis lazuli, a semi-precious stone used in women's jewelry in ancient matriarchal societies, Mrs. Laughlin said.

She said the brown in "Life's message" recalls the Earth Mother, worshiped in those societies.

The small, round acorns surrounding the open circles on the brown oar were used because "they reminded me of breasts."


"Circles have long been identified with women. They were important in early matriarchal societies. [The women] had circular hearths, circular homes, they sat in circles," Mrs. Laughlin said.

"The oar has to do with boat symbolism, the passage of life and life as a journey."

Many of her paintings are a variation on the ring theme. In "Spirit Vase," she used the idea of a hollow circle -- the opening at the top of the vase -- but the image is obviously a vase, even if the strokes of yellow acrylic paint applied with a stick give the object a more primitive look.

"I am inviting the viewer to crawl up into this vase, this womb or nest, to contemplate their ideas and beliefs," Mrs. Laughlin said. "To go into the safety there and get in touch with themselves."

These primitive images "crystallized" for Mrs. Laughlin during her somewhat strange, yet poignant dream.

"All cultures go through rites of passage. A girl gets braces and that's part of it," Mrs. Laughlin said.


"The dream draws upon some memory I had in the past. We all have these images encoded in our bodies, parts of our past, of the beginnings of human civilization."

Ms. Laughlin's art will be on display in Gallery One until Feb. 25 on the third floor of the Hoover Library at Western Maryland College. For more information, contact the Department of Art and Art History, 857-2599 or 876-2055, Ext. 599.