Ghost of a Dream serving residency at CSB and SJU through Feb. 24

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February 8, 2018

By Mike Killeen

family of artists

Lauren Was and Adam Eckstrom with daughter Holiday River

Photo credit: Verónica González Mayoral

Back in the day, Adam Eckstrom and Sam Johnson used to skateboard on the streets of Minneapolis.

That started a friendship that continues to this day.

For the next couple of weeks, the two will be reunited – although skateboarding will not be on the agenda.

Eckstrom and his wife, Lauren Was, are known professionally as Ghost of a Dream, which is serving the 2018 Sister Dennis Frandrup Artist Residency through Feb. 24 at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University.

Johnson is a professor of art at CSB and SJU and an artist himself, specializing in hand crafted functional ceramics and wood fired pottery.

“We had a tightknit circle of friends in common – many of whom have gone on into the arts,” Johnson said. “Skateboarding shares many qualities with art, and I think of it as having been good preparation for being an artist.”

Ghost of a Dream creates work that embodies the essence of opulence while being constructed of materials that typically end up in the trash. The artists mine popular culture searching for discarded materials - such as used lottery tickets - that people use trying to reach their goals.

“We make work that is super accessible, and we do that on purpose because we want our audience to be a wide range of people, from people who don’t know anything about art to a contemporary art critic.” Eckstrom said.

“We want to be part of that variety of dialogue. We hope we can help students look at the art world a little more differently,” Eckstrom added.

“It’s great to have a fresh space to walk into,” Was said of their temporary studio in the SJU Art Center. “We make everything out of these collected materials. So, as you can imagine, we have a lot of stuff, so it’s nice to step into this clean, fresh space and be able to clear our heads and work on projects.”

Ghost of a Dream has produced a very wide range of work aesthetically – collage, sculpture, video, drawing and installation.

“The blue chip, commercial gallery way to do it is to not change your work very often,” Eckstrom said. “But to us, it seems not the way to go. We call ourselves Ghost of a Dream because we make work about people’s hopes and dreams out of the ephemera they create trying to obtain those hopes and dreams. We’re making all these collections, so it’s not even possible for our work to always look the same.”

Was said flexing between the various mediums is “good for the brain.”

“We can work on really intense collages for a while, and then just get totally burned out with pasting and cutting and gluing and making these really intricate collages,” Was said. “And then, we can just step back and go to the computer and then we get computerized, and then we get to step back and go back into the studio, or build something in wood.

“I think for us, it keeps the work fresh,” she said.

That’s part of the reason Ghost of a Dream was selected to serve the residency. Johnson noted that in the past, the modes of art making have traditionally been siloed – that is, a painter would paint or draw, but not necessarily make sculpture.

“We believe that art, at its most basic level, is a form of communication,” Johnson said. “Students should make art by any means necessary. They should make art in the most effective way possible – regardless of mode or medium – and believe by looking at the relationship between modes of working, one can discover new ways of thinking.

“We hope it breaks down boundaries and opens new possibilities. Ghost of a Dream is exemplars in this way. They are not restricted by an artificial or insignificant boundary and make especially strong, elegant statements about wealth and desire,” Johnson said.

While in residency, Ghost of a Dream is working with CSB and SJU students on a video collection of sunsets happening in countries that are listed on the U.S. State Department’s travel ban list.

“When you look at it, it’s filled with some beautiful images that are really rich images of all these sunsets, layered on top of each other,” Was said. “But then, when you read about how these videos are collected and where they are from, you started to realize that there’s something else going on there.”

“That’s how we want all of our work to operate,” Eckstrom said. “From a distance, you see something beautiful. Then you get closer, and then you have to unfold what it means to you.”