#9 Dream (Homage to Salvador Dalí) by Alice McMahon

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#9 Dream (Homage to Salvador Dalí) by 

Charcoal on Mylar drafting film, 12 × 24″.

A surrealistic impression of John Lennon’s murder.

For the drawing, I’ve used a reference photo of the Charter Arms .38 revolver the police confiscated at the scene of the crime, tagged as shown in the photo. The butterflies, white lily, and stormy backdrop are from my own references I took on recent vacations. The flower placed inside the gun barrel is reminiscent of 1967’s “Flower Power,” photo by Bernard Norman, showing a long-haired antiwar protester shoving carnations into the gun barrels of MPs during an anti-Vietnam protest at the Pentagon. The caterpillar and butterflies are symbols of the earthly life, spirit, and transformation in the afterlife, and were often used by artist Salvador Dalí.

Lennon was murdered on December 10, 1980, shot four times in the back.

In 1979, Lennon’s assassin (nameless, as Yoko requested) began drinking heavily and developed an obsession for contemporary art. He bought numerous items of art, including a Salvador Dali, amassing a debt that was becoming way out of control. He began reading with an insatiable appetite, especially “The Catcher in The Rye.” He often interpreted lyrics as if they had been written especially for him. #9 Dream from Lennon’s “Walls & Bridges” album was a special song for John – some say the strange and haunting lyrics of #9 Dream are John’s premonition of his own death. According to John, the foreign-sounding phrase “Ah! böwakawa poussé, poussé.” doesn’t mean anything…it is just a phrase that came to him in a dream and he decided to base a song around it.

As I was drawing from the storm landscape reference photo, I noticed a vague dark spout along the horizon. There was a tornado touchdown this past July during the storm I had photographed while we were driving, skirting the eye of the storm near Galena, Illinois. I’m not sure if I had captured the funnel’s beginning, but I emphasized the funnel effect in my drawing. The sense of impending doom was strong that afternoon and it matches my unease in the current climate in the states.

My motivation for drawing this piece is the surge in gun sales since U.S. President Obama was elected, just one of the many issues in the current American landscape. “It’s simply paranoia,” said Thomas Mannard of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence. “And it’s irresponsible, from my point of view, to be touting how wonderful this is. More guns definitely equal more death.”

Mr. Lennon still inspires.

I have a dream…

  1. Dream (video)
So long agoWas it in a dream, was it just a dream?I know, yes I knowSeemed so very real, it seemed so real to meTook a walk down the streetThru the heat whispered treesI thought I could hear (hear, hear, hear)Somebody call out my name, as it started to rainTwo spirits dancing so strangeAh! böwakawa poussé, pousséAh! böwakawa poussé, pousséAh! böwakawa poussé, pousséDream, dream awayMagic in the air, was magic in the air?I believe, yes I believeMore I cannot say, what more can I say?On a river of soundThru the mirror go round, roundI thought I could feel (feel, feel, feel)Music touching my soul, something warm, sudden coldThe spirit dance was unfoldingAh! böwakawa poussé, pousséAh! böwakawa poussé, pousséAh! böwakawa poussé, pousséLyrics, by John Lennon

The butterfly wings along the flower stem are after this painting by Salvador Dalí:

I specialize in figurative charcoal drawing. My work was recently shown and sold at the Saatchi Gallery in London. Current works delve into the realm of symbolism and magic realism.
All of my drawings are meant to be noble representations of individual subjects, and also bring together a wealth of influences, recognition of art history and myth and a contemporary attitude to create images that are of the moment, but hopefully will also remain relevant in the future.

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  • Janne Kearney
    Janne Kearneyover 5 years ago

    Great piece Alice, I have just recently been to a large exhibition of Dali’s work on loan to the National Gallery in Aus, I love the monotone aspect too.

  • Thanks Janne. A bit of a departure for me, but I’ve always loved Dali. We went to one of his museums in Florida about 20 years ago, amazing to see! I never thought I’d be able to pull off surrealism, but not half bad for an early attempt. I guess it does have a dark air, and that was what I was going for.

    I must get back to you about our earlier discussion. I should also check my daughter’s school schedule at that time. xx

    – Alice McMahon

  • MoonSpiral
    MoonSpiralover 5 years ago

    This is freakin’ amazing art Alice. The thought and the connections you have tied together in this one little piece!!! There is multiple layers of symbolism. Thankyou for writing all of the background info. Sometimes you can draw your own conclusions, but you putting together all of your thoughts and inspiration for the piece just makes it that much powerful. It is very, very sad how much beauty one gun can take away from the world.

  • I know there’s much to be said for letting the viewer have their own impressions of a work of art. I was pretty much blown away, after I had the original idea, by how many coincidences there were with the real story of Lennon’s murder, and I really wanted to share them.

    I never thought of #9 dream as a premonition of John’s death, but onceI chose that title, I found several internet references to that idea. Also, an earlier idea was to do a portrait of Dali himself. Then I thought a work inspired by his work would be a more appropriate tribute.

    I’ve been disturbed by the gun issue and once I decided to do the tribute also to Lennon’s values, I discovered the detail about the assassin owning a work by Dali. Very strange!

    You are so right about gun violence. Many of my friends and family have bought guns in recent months. What is the point of that if you live in the suburbs? Fear is riding high, but many will suffer in the end. Peace Moon Spiral! xx

    – Alice McMahon

  • WonderlandGlass
    WonderlandGlassover 5 years ago

    Powerful, moving, touching tribute to two beautiful and creative spirits, my friend. A very good first effort in the realm of surrealism. Your narrative, informative as always, is most helpful for those unfamiliar with the works of these two creatoive giants as well as a wonderful glimpse into your own creative process. I, too, am increasingly concerned with the heightened level of inflammatory political rhetoric within our country and the total lack of a sense of responsibilty on the part of some to address it. For exammple, last week a man attending a ‘town meeting’ to discuss our health care system and proposed changes proudly proclaimed himself to be a ‘right wing terrorist’- HIS OWN WORDS… and the congressman conducting the meeting actually replied ‘God Bless you… There is a great American’ These events and others where people attending these meetings actually carrying weapons is shocking and should give everyone pause… Thank you for daring to speak your mind and feelings on this subject, my friend. Thank you for being a courageous warrior for peace!

  • I won’t be making any friends on the right, but all of these events are weighing heavy on my mind. I know the protesters are good people, and we are ALL good Americans, but the fear is driving people to act rashly and in mean spirited rants. I have no patience for it. All this has been distracting while I’m trying to complete my series. I sometimes wake up in the morning with images of something I’d like to draw related to these thoughts. This vision was powerful and I had to bring it to light.

    Peace to you Doug, thanks for your insightful comment. Glad you said it. :)

    – Alice McMahon

  • P.S. Not sure I like the idea of being called a “warrior for peace” but I know what you meant. Comes a time the liberal soul must speak out.

    – Alice McMahon

  • Leith
    Leithover 5 years ago

    Next to Thalia this comes close to being my favourite piece from this series Alice.

    Mainly due to the truths captured within it which you have detailed so well and intelligently in words (at right) and on the drawing itself of course.

    I am always so much more impressed with artwork which documents something important, particularly within the artists own life, and knowing your love of Lennon makes this all the more personal and original. In so much as there is a lot of “you” in this image and what you feel most strongly about.

    It’s interesting you have moved forward with this series and in some *surreal way you have also come full circle back to the White Album with this latest drawing.. amazing.

    Nice title too….. #9 dream is my favourite Lennon track ever.

    John would have loved this.

  • Strong emotions Leith. I barely sleep these days. I was so proud on election night in Grant Park, what has happened?

    Thanks for your kind words, I really appreciate them as I know you have a good eye. Note my reply to Lynsye below. Considering my limitations, I agree, John would love this. And yes, great tune!

    – Alice McMahon

  • Lynsye Medalia
    Lynsye Medaliaover 5 years ago

    Absolutely amazing Alice! :) I love all of the tributes and the ways you’ve interpreted them. I think my favorite part of this is the caterpillar – he’s resting on the gun, which causes death, the caterpillar is the last stage before complete transformation…a little death. Even though Lennon died in one form, his spirit went on and transformed….transcended to the next spiritual level. He still inspires so many people today and you have given him another life through your art over and over and over again!

  • Funny Lynsye – I was hesitant to add the caterpillar, but I’ve been meaning to add one to the series for some time and it never quite fit into earlier pieces. I was unsure of where to place it in the drawing and the gun just seemed to be best, a reference to the earthly world and the gunman himself. Interesting you put into words my subconscious thoughts about it, thank you!

    I am not certain if I believe those in the afterlife can guide an artist’s hand, but perhaps being in tune with Lennon the past few years helped me create something I believe he really would appreciate. Peace & love sweet friend!

    – Alice McMahon

  • lessmutzart
    lessmutzartover 5 years ago

    There are so many interesting elements in this piece, Alice, from the background to the obvious foreground images. With all due respect to Dali, I think you have done a more significant work. I was surprised not to see a chrysalis dangling in there somewhere!! :)) (just kidding!) A truly remarkable work of art, Alice!

  • Oh my! Quite sure my work doesn’t deserve this high praise Les. I’ll just say thanks for the thought. :) The chrysalis will make an appearance in one of my next pieces. ;)

    – Alice McMahon

  • WonderlandGlass
    WonderlandGlassover 5 years ago

    Glad you understood the term ‘warrior for peace’ it was an oxymoronic tag we gave ourselves during the antiwar movement days of the 60’s (like ‘military intelligence’). It grew from our feeling that we put ourselves out there during marches to accept the abuse (verbal & physical) from our fellow citizens and to put flowers in the barrels of military weapons as you mentioned in your narrative. It takes courage to take an unpoplular stand, as you did in your narrative comments, my friend, and for that I again thank you. Peace

  • You can tell I was a few years removed from the movement – lol – though I’ve heard similar tags for pacifists like us. What I can’t get my head around is how we become the enemy? It makes me sad to think about it.

    On a lighter note – I saw Taking Woodstock last week! I was a bit disappointed, but it had some really good moments. Do see it!

    – Alice McMahon

  • brettisagirl
    brettisagirlover 5 years ago

    i like this… it’s sort of neat to see your create a piece with no portrait in it.. rather, the objects sort of become the portrait. You’re very good when it comes to the surreal but also maintaining a completely coherent story/message… if i make any sense.. haaha. basically, i’m just saying " I LOVE ALICE AND HER ART! "

  • I’ve never been much for still life – but this was a fun exercise. Well, maybe fun is not the word, but interesting to evoke two famous artists without using a likeness. Lately I find myself thinking the Monty Python line “My brain hurts!” LOL. In a good way of course.

    BTW, have I told you lately: “I LOVE BRETT AND HER ART!” Shine on young one.

    – Alice McMahon

  • Rhinovangogh
    Rhinovangoghover 5 years ago

    Once again. You rock!

  • Merci Rhino!

    – Alice McMahon

  • Tahnja
    Tahnjaover 5 years ago

    there is no doubt in my mind that Sir John would be looking upon this piece from heaven with a heart full of love and gratitude for such a beautiful tribute to him and his great legacy of peace. Gosh Alice, brilliant work. One of my all time songs is Imagine, I may not agree totally with all the lyrics but I understand what Lennon was saying and I sing that song with soul and heartfelt meaning. It is my desire to record my version one day……hugs

  • You are a woman of many talents Tahnja :) Thank you!

    – Alice McMahon

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