What is it?
Fred Stonehouse (b. Milwaukee 1960)
Dream of the Marsh Potatoes
Acrylic on canvas
60 x 84 in.
Gifted 2017, The Art Ball Fund
About the Work
Fred Stonehouse has developed a distinctive style that is an idiosyncratic blend of personal mythology, religious symbolism, and art-historical approaches such as European Surrealism and the Magic Realism of Latin American artists like Frida Kahlo. His often humorous, fantastical paintings frequently feature biomorphic hybrid forms that take on allegorical, mystical significance. Stonehouse’s highly personal iconography reflects his own relationship with the world: he has taught for years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and he lives near the Horicon Marsh, where he often goes for inspiration directly from nature.
Dream of the Marsh Potatoes is literally based on a dream. Stonehouse was struggling to complete a painting of a bear in a fanciful, imaginary marshland, tentatively titled Dream of the Marsh. One night, he dreamt about an elementary school classmate who added an extra “r” sound to certain words—for instance, “warsh” for “wash.” In the dream, Stonehouse and his classmate were standing in a field filled with giant lollipops. The classmate said they were potatoes—“marshed potatoes of course.” Stonehouse laughed, assuming he meant mashed potatoes, but he discovered that the lollipops tasted like dirty potatoes rather than candy. Stonehouse woke up and decided to paint his dream, complete with giant lollipops and a cryptic legend that features the revised title as part of the mysterious narrative.