In 1987, shortly after I decided to leave my husband of twenty years, I started dreaming about making art. My dreams became my nightly compass, my way of listening to my inner authority rather than allowing external events to continually shape my life. As part of the silent and stoic generation of women who came of age in the 1950s, I had conformed to the expectations of my era, believing that marriage and family were the twin poles that anchored a woman’s life. Now I wanted to chart my own course.
To leave someone else’s idea of a fairy tale and set out to find my own way was a radical, unconventional act, one that shook me to my bones. Though I was certain of what I needed to do, I often felt I was living on the dark side of the moon, alienated from my previous life, but facing an uncertain future. The only clues I had to where I was going were found in my nightly dreams—dreams that were so real, so luminous, and sometimes so frightening that they startled me into seeing glimpses of my true identity.
Night by night, I experienced the part of me that existed independent of what was expected of me. I defined that free, unfettered part as my soul. Once the dreams started, they were like nightly waterfalls flowing continuously from some mysterious inner well. They felt like snapshots of myself under water, hard to make out but persistent and unavoidable.
In one of the first in a series of art-making dreams, I could see a multicolored snake slither across the floor. I was fascinated by its vibrant, hypnotic colors, which moved in slow motion. They were numinous, charged with supernatural energy. The colors were a reminder to me of elements that are necessary to an artist’s life—emotion and intuition, the kind of sharp and dangerous instincts that tell you when to be silent, when to hiss, and when to strike. I felt challenged but afraid. Remembering what happened to Eve in the Garden of Eden, I suspected that the snake in my dream signaled the loss of my own innocence, the end of a certain way of life. Nevertheless, I was relieved to see that it was alive and on the move, and
I watched it for what seemed like a long time. Suddenly, it struck the right side of my head. Later I came to understand that the snake symbolized art-making, which had metaphorically bitten me. The fact that it had pierced the right side of my brain—my creative side—seemed enormously important. At some level, I understood that I would spend the rest of my life fostering my own creativity and that of others. I wanted to be an artist, a collector, and a benefactor—not just one role, but three. You could say that ArtPace was born at that moment.
This is a memoir about losing innocence and moving dreams forward, creating spaces where others can do the same, and the healing that comes from assuming full responsibility for your own creative life.
Excerpted from “Dreaming Red: Creating ArtPace” about the creation and development of Artpace, an artist residency program in San Antonio. The book seeks to capture the dual identity of Artpace, both the motivation for its existence and the product of its efforts. The publication features a personal narrative penned by Linda Pace, with the assistance of award-winning author Jan Jarboe Russell, as well as a series of texts by fourteen curators and critics on selected projects created at Artpace, and an essay by writer Eleanor Heartney about the history of artist residencies and that of Artpace itself.
Below: Linda Pace, Red Project, 2001. Found objects on wood panels. 96 x 96 in.