Rome Widenhouse, BFA Exhibition

Hypnagogia: Explorations of Sleep Paralysis

When: November 10–November 21, 2017
Where: S. Tucker Cooke Gallery
Opening Reception: Friday, November 10, 6-8:00 p.m.
Gallery Hours: 9:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. Monday–Friday

Free and Open to the Public

Artist Statement:
I have experienced sleep paralysis since I was a child, and the phenomenon has had a profound influence on my development and sensibilities as an artist. This photography series, Hypnagogia: Explorations of Sleep Paralysis, has been an effort to examine my own relationship with the phenomenon and come to understand the implications regarding irrational fear and superstition. Sleep paralysis can be one of the most surreal and terrifying experiences of a lifetime, as an individual awakens from a nightmare while their brain continues dreaming. Complete muscular paralysis causes the victim to  be trapped within a waking nightmare. Feeling of suffocation and claustrophobia, are often accompanied by the sense of a malevolent entity present the room. The experience forces the victim to confront their most primal of fears in an intimate setting. The horror experienced is a product of the victim's own imagination, making the victim both the architect and prisoner of their own fear. This duality of cause and consequence is the central thesis of this series. We have a remarkable ability to frighten ourselves, and there is nothing more frightening than the aspects which we keep hidden from ourselves.

Sleep paralysis acts as a springboard into the hypnagogic landscape, full of varied phenomena where our rationality is at its most vulnerable. Scenarios depicted in this series reflect my own  personal experiences as well as testimonies of others. Sleep Paralysis takes place during an overlap of the irrational dreamstate and rational sensory awareness. This collision is exemplified by the combination of abstract expressionistic techniques combined with photorealism. The expressive textures that permeate the images are emblematic of the emotional reality of the victim: anxiety, vulnerability, claustrophobia, and terror. The images act as a veil between the viewer and a dream reality which resembles ours, but follows a logic of its own. In creating this body of I hope to inform those who have never experienced sleep paralysis, as well remind those who suffer from it that they are not alone.—Rome Widenhouse, November 2017.