A review by New Renaissance's resident art critic, Sparrow.

by Sparrow 

{mosgoogle}This is the first piece of art criticism written about an art object seen in a dream. Last October 15, I visited an art gallery in the dream world. There I saw, in a glass case, an object that was half a dead alligator and half a paintbrush. The alligator substituted for the handle of the brush. It was a baby alligator--or perhaps a crocodile. (Actually, I cannot tell the difference between the two.) The alligator faced one direction, the brush the other.

The paintbrush was a wide one, perhaps four inches wide--the kind one associates with house painting. (Although, since this item appeared in an art gallery, I remembered that certain paintings--abstract expressionist, and color field--could be composed with such a brush.)
The title of the piece and name of the artist were not visible, in my dream. I don’t even know the name of the gallery, or the city the gallery was in.

Did this artwork have a meaning, or a message? I don’t expect sculptures to have meanings and messages. However, one could imagine this message, from the artist: "To paint, one must grasp a dead baby alligator."

And what does a dead baby alligator signify?

This is a new paintbrush, I forgot to say. Nothing had ever been painted with it (as far as I could know). If the artist was speaking of art, she was speaking of art as a potential. A "working artist" has dirt and paint and grime on his hands.

When I was a youth, comic books would advertise alligators as pets: "Own your own alligator! They make fine pets!" These reptiles cost $1.99, as I recall. They were mailed in small boxes, up from Florida. They were babies.

Of course, I wanted such an alligator. I am not certain if I asked my parents to buy one. If I did, they certainly refused. I can imagine (or perhaps remember) my father shaving in the bathroom, and announcing: "No, we won’t buy an alligator!"

I never even saw one of the alligator babies. My friend Bobby had seen one, however--but this poor creature was eventually flushed down a toilet.

Now, 36 years later, the alligator I never owned appears, in my dream. This child alligator has become a work of art--a paintbrush.

"Reach out your hand, and grasp the alligator," the unknown artist instructs me. "You can never live with this creature--it is too late to befriend her. But you may use her to paint with. Her dead body has become a tool for art.

"No one else has painted with her. She is waiting for you, and you alone, to begin her existence as a paintbrush.

"The painting you create will prolong her life. She will live through the colors you apply to the canvas."

In New York City, where I was born, it was believed that those alligators flushed down toilets came to live in the sewers, where they grew to be giant. Although my own dream alligator died in infancy, and did not grow to be a monster, I can paint, with her brush "tail", the largest alligator who ever lived.

Sparrow lives in Phoenicia, New York, a hamlet seated among the Catskill Mountains. He is currently working on a new book, "1001 Ways to Lose at Chess."

This article was printed in New Renaissance, Volume 10, No. 2, Issue 33 (Spring, 2001)