In one mystical illustration, a pregnant woman lies in a bathtub, unaware of a group of spectators observing her through a window. A deer with the body of a human stands over her, seemingly protecting her from the spying onlookers. In another illustration, a Rapunzel-like figure stands tall while her long, flowing hair transforms into an alligator. Constructed with remarkable detail, from wallpaper patterns to facial expressions, the paintings of multidisciplinary artist Leah Brown evoke tales from The Brothers Grimm. At once magical and seductive, these complex illustrations explore the relationship between dreams and reality.
Brown's paintings stem from memories of her lucid dreams. They form part of a magical world she has created called The Story of the Hunted. "Some of my dreams seem to have a recurring theme, and I've always tried to remember them, although this was easier as a child," Brown tells Creators. "It wasn't until I was making art that I wanted to pursue what I recalled from my dreams."
Likening her own dream experiences to playing video games, Brown has the ability to navigate imaginary landscapes while asleep and remember what she sees upon awakening. She dreams up a fairytale-like world, where the landscape is full of twisted woodland and mythical creatures. There are three main characters in Brown's dreams: three women, each of whom has long hair with transformative powers. "For the last 15 years, my work has been an ongoing investigation into these characters and their stories in an attempt for a cross dream narrative and to understand the world that I dream about," Brown says.
Brown's hirsute inspirations don't just stop there, either: the artist actually constructs her paintings with her own hair. She "paints" what she remembers of her dreams onto mylar using snippets of hair mixed with clear acrylic. "I began researching hair art and the traditional Victorian techniques of painting using chopped hair. I took an interest in the Seven Sutherland Sisters, a family circus act in the mid-1800s, renowned for their tremendously long hair," Brown says. The artist likens the aesthetic of these sisters to the three long-haired characters she sees in her dreams. "They were essentially America's first models; their hair grew very quickly, and among them, their hair was 37 feet long."
Another recurring character in Brown's lucid dreams is a deer-headed woman. Brown explains that this character was once a woman named Lana, who was in love with a man called Joe. One day, Lana encountered a dragon-like monster that consumed her head. Joe carried Lana's headless body through the woods, looking for help. "He ended up meeting the three long-haired sisters, who gave him a special blade," Brown says. "I dreamt that Joe found a young girl whose head he was going to take, but before he did, he noticed that a deer was lapping up Lana's blood from her headless body. In anger, Joe cut the deer's head off and it bonded with Lana's body, giving her life again. Part human and part animal, Lana developed a conflict with her transformation, eventually retreating into the woods."
To view more of Brown's dreamy work, click here.