Exploring Capucine Bourcart’s ‘Dream Series’ during this time of COVID




On a recent studio visit with Connie Lee (pictured left), Curator/Director of Living with Art Salon and the President of Marcus Garvey Park Alliance and the Public Art Initiative to view The Dream Series by artist (pictured right) Capucine Bourcart

Have you been dreaming more frequently over this past few months? Intense, life like, scary dreams? Whimsical or wonderful dreams? According to several studies, COVID-19, and its affect on our life in general, has increased the trend.

This past June, I visited the Living with Art Salon, who had a most unusual piece in a small side-room, entitled ‘Big Dream‘ by artist Capucine Bourcart. This large-format artwork, hung from the ceiling, gracing the floor. It held a dream in a code known only to the artist, and it was printed ~ line by line ~ with sand collected from all over the world. Oh yes, we wanted to see more. Below is a visit to the artists’ studio to see her entire collection of the Dream Series.

Bourcart’s fascination with coding began at an early age, when as a young girl, she would often exchange coded messages with a friend. The coding presented itself as abstract symbols in place of letters or punctuation. As this very personal language became firmly rooted in place, it took a logical next step as a personal way to write down and save her dreams ~ and as an artist, this code-expression was eventually recreated on fabrics, with her dream-language written in sand ~ this was the beginning of the Dream Series.

A closeup of artwork in The Dream Series

Above is a closer look a one of the many pieces included in the Dream Series. Bourcart knows her coded alphabet so well, that it’s as if a second language, with words and symbols that often appear in her dream. When I first saw ‘Big Dream‘, which was only on view for one week, the artist was in the gallery, and enthusiastically explained her process. “If you look closely, you will be able to decipher the code,” she said. I have been trying.

Hand-stitched framing ~ this one a work in progress

Each piece in the Dream Series is surrounded by a hand-stitched frame. The artwork imaged above was a work in progress. Each piece contains a specific dream, and the artist will tell you, her dreams come often ~ they are vivid and filled with detail. It is this detail that is pronounced in her lettering. As you will notice in the artwork imaged below, there are words or whole sentences ~ even lines ~ where her instrument (the sand) is layered. Beginning with glue and sand ~ glue and sand ~ sometimes as many as three-layers. Other thoughts in her dream might require one or two layers.

Zooming in on three-layers. The Dream Series

Extraordinarily labor-intensive, each piece begins with choosing a fabric ~ one that suits the particular dream. On to the selection of the writing instrument ~ choosing from a palette of sand from all over the world. The sand is closely matched to the fabric, with the intention of blending the writing so closely to the fabric that ~ like a dream ~ as you move back from the piece, the lines of language almost disappear.

The Dream Series ~ a closer look

With the color of the sand so close to the color of the fabric, the dream gives a feeling of fading in and out, as dreams often do. The viewer doesn’t have to be able to read the code to know the intensity of what’s being written, viewing the varying layers of symbols.

Pay attention to the detail. In this image, the finished edges, hand-done.

Capucine Bourcart grew up in Alsace, a Germanic region of Eastern France, identifying as French with Vietnamese heritage. She immigrated to the United States in 2006, where she lives and works in Harlem. Her studio is filled with dozens of projects in various stages, including thoughts on paper.

Studio visit to view The Dream Series

Her studio is also filled with her wonderful and sometimes whimsical finds ~ some to inspire, some to become her next creation. It is the sand that has become part of her dreams.

Sample collection of sand used for color and texture

Take a close look at her sand palettes! Sand from all over the country, all over the world. Choosing the color to apply to the fabric of a piece in the Dream Series is as important as creating a palette for a painting.

Closeup of the palette of sand samples from around the world.

Below is a nice shot of one of the desks holding several pieces in the Dream Series in various stages of conclusion.

Studio visit, Capucine Bourcart, to see The Dream Series

One piece in particular is a dream told to her by a close friend. This piece (above) and also featured in the first image with Bourcart glancing through a magnifier, was created using sand coated in phosphorescent paint. In daylight it looks very much like the other pieces in this series, but when taken into a dark room, you will see the stunning image below.

Sand coated in phosphorescent paint, this is what the artwork looks like in the dark.

“Each piece in the Dream Series retells a story in a concise way, in its entirety, creating a narrative,” said Connie Lee, Curator and Director of Living with Art Salon, where I was able to view ‘Big Dream‘.

Hand-stitched frame

The color of the thread used for the hand-stitching of the frame applied to each piece in the Dream Series is also chosen to blend into the artwork.

From The Dream Series

Below, a few recent finds from a trip to Long Island and the Great South Bay.

In the studio, sand from all over the world. In view, recent collection of sand taken from Long Island’s South Shore.

One of the many pieces from the Dream Series on the wall of the studio, is the one below, using a two-tone fabric. Standing thoughtful in front of this work, Bourcart referenced the dark and bright sides to dreams.

Capucine Bourcart speaking about a piece in the Dream Series, referencing dark vs brighter dreams

Looking back to June, 2020, and and Big Dream, the first in the Series that piqued our interest, we’ve included an image below.

‘Big Dream’, part of the Dream Series, was on view for one-week at Living with Art Salon. Image courtesy Capucine Bourcart

Taking a closer look, it captures the unique and labor-intensive qualities of the rest of the Series, with its color consistent border blending into the natural fabric border, surrounding the lettering sharing the dream itself.

Signature hand-sewed framing surrounds this large-scale artwork, part of the Dream Series.

Standing at the back wall, looking at it from a distance, the lettering was barely visible. But once viewers step forward, they are delighted by the image below. A story in a language known only to one.

Closeup of ‘Big Dream’ courtesy of the artist.

Below is an image so magnified that you can see the texture of this particular paper. In all this time, I can only tell you that the first word (that most would assume to be the Sun) is, in fact, cat ~ the artist’s cat often appears in her dreams and in this Series.

This closeup gives a sense of the paper used for this installation.

Less than a mile from her studio, Bourcart is currently in the exhibition, Pattern Migration, the works of two artists ~ Capucine Bourcart and Beatrice Lebreton at Living with Art Salon.

Capucine Bourcart, Light Sky Blue Monochrome, currently on view in the exhibition, Pattern Migration at Living with Art Salon. Image courtesy Living with Art Salon.

The walls in the gallery mix and match, intermingling the works of the artists in two rooms. Above, Bourcart’s piece Light Sky Blue Monochrome next to three of her small pieces from her Nid-de-poule Series.

An entire wall of Capucine Bourcart’s Nid-de-poule series in the exhibition Pattern Migration currently on view at Living with Art Salon. Image courtesy Living with Art Salon.

Above and below, two different angles showing Bourcart’s larger pieces in her Nid-de-poule Series.

Capucine Bourcart’s Cid-de-poule series on view in the exhibit, Pattern Migration at Living with Art Salon. Image courtesy Living with Art Salon.

Pattern Migration, works by Capucine Bourcart and Beatrice Lebreton will be on view at Living with Art Salon in Harlem through September, 2020. The gallery recently re-opened with timed appointments.

Just prior to the opening of Pattern Migration, Bourcart installed an outdoor art installation entitled Eat Me! In keeping with her creative methods, this was another labor-intensive creation where she took hundreds of photographs of fruits and vegetables at local markets, deli’s and bodega’s.

Art installation, Eat Me!, Close up of the metal squares making up the letter ‘ T’ ~ a variety of beans

These photographs were turned into about 1,500 photo mosaics printed on metal squares, and each one attached to the chain-link fence surrounding Eugene McCabe Field on Park Avenue at 120th Street in East Harlem ~ a message to a largely food insecure community on healthy eating.

More at Living With Art Gallery.

Follow Capucine Bourcart on her website, on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.