6ft X 5ft
In "Waking Dream," J. Pacena II's contemplation of the shifts between dreaming and wakefulness serves as a proxy for the age-old struggle of being and consciousness. Referencing his own struggles between current contentments and the inevitable realizations of false perspectives and relative truths, he portrays a woman's face in a calm state of sleep, consumed by geometric shapes that seem to crawl and grow over her organically, representing her many tangled thoughts and emotions. These are at once overwhelming and consuming yet also strangely comforting—a state of mental chaos that is familiar in its confusion and content in its state of being lost and still oblivious to the existence of supposedly higher "truths."
The artist's original inspiration for the female face, interestingly enough, are the mannequins standing in store windows after closing hours, when they are frequently draped in dust covers and consequently resemble a sleeping person tucked beneath the covers. While the artist draws a literal visual parallel here, there is also a small irony in the notion of an empty "shell" that is afforded thought and emotion—the idea that the human being is nothing without these complications.
As with Pacena's more recent series of works, the combination of organic figures with geometric shapes and static planes inevitably references his art-making process as both a digital and traditional artist. Representing an argument for the organic possibilities between both art mediums, as well as an acknowledgement of the difficulty in actually achieving this, the piece illustrates a concession to the imperfect relationship between the two, as the promises of technology ultimately give way to the infinitely greater weight of tradition.