Bulldog Bites

News and Views from the University of Redlands

University Gallery experiences 'Hypnogogia'

Photographs in the show 'Hypnogogia' capture the experience of sleep paralysis, the temporary inability to move or speak when falling asleep or waking. (Image courtesy of Tommi Cahill.)

The show Hypnogogia, created by the University of Redlands’ own Professor of Photography Tommi Cahill, opened at the University Gallery on Tuesday. A reception followed on Wednesday afternoon, the content of the show providing a stark contrast to the holiday of hearts.

Hypnogogia refers to the transitional state between wakefulness and sleep during which many people experience lucid dreaming (in which the dreamer is aware of dreaming) and/or sleep paralysis (the temporary inability to move or speak while falling asleep or waking). Cahill suffers from sleep paralysis, and Hypnogogia centers around her experiences.

“Some of them are dreams that I’ve had,” said Cahill of her photographs. “Some of them are real-life stories I’ve heard, and others I created in response to something I saw or in response to how I was feeling.”

Images of a woman tied to a bed beneath filthy sheets capture this often-terrifying experience of being confined in one’s own body, half-asleep and unable to move. Others of a woman covered in blood or a half-naked trio in the woods underline the feeling of inherent wrongness in Cahill’s series. The photographs, nailed aggressively to the gallery walls, are stills snatched from nightmares before the mind can fully make sense of them.

On the choice to more or less destroy her photographs by nailing them to the walls, Cahill said, “Someone left the nails in my studio. They’re coffin nails from Salem, Massachusetts. I just thought they’d be really perfect to install the pictures with. I wanted them to be pinned or tacked down because that’s the feeling when you’re in that moment of sleep paralysis.”

Visitors to 'Hypnogogia,' the newest show to be featured at the University Gallery, work on a puzzle that will ultimately reveal one of the photographs on display. (Photo by Taylor Matousek '18)

The show also features two puzzles, which visitors can piece together. The puzzles are two images from the show, and Cahill felt that they were important to include. “When you have a trauma or dream,” she said, “you’re always trying to pause to figure out what it was you were thinking about and what it meant.”

“It’s kind of cathartic to get it out,” Cahill added. 

Hypnogogia will be on display at the University Gallery on Colton Avenue until Sunday, March 21. The gallery is open from 1–5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and from 2–5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The exhibition will be closed for spring break February 24–March 4.

It should be noted that Cahill’s show depicts nudity, violence, and other subject matter that might be offensive to the viewer. Discretion is advised.

The next show at the University Gallery will be the annual senior art show, in which studio art seniors will display their final projects. Instead of an opening reception, a closing reception will be held on April 19, from 4:30–6:30 p.m., the evening before commencement.