In The Woodlands, an iconic sculpture of a man lying half submerged in the ground rests in the median on the east side of the intersection of South Panther Creek and Woodlands Parkway, where it was installed by artist David Phelps in 1989.
"The Dreamer" is a triple life-size mixed media figurative sculpture originally commissioned by the Connemara Conservancy for a temporary outdoor exhibit in 1987. It was then cast in a limited edition of three bronze castings. The first was commissioned by The Woodlands, the second was commissioned by the city of Palm Desert, California, and the third was commissioned by the Sterling Research Group of Collegeville, Pennsylvania.
I reached out to David Phelps inquiring about the meaning behind the sculpture. According to Phelps, the sculpture's origins can be traced to his childhood home in California’s Central Valley Delta, where a maze of rivers meander and crisscross on their way to the San Francisco Bay and eventually, the Pacific Ocean. Middle River, Old River, and the San Joaquin River intersect to form the largest island in the Delta: Roberts Island. The threat of the island flooding left powerful memories and emotions with Phelps as he grew up, and sequentially influenced much of the artwork he created as an adult.
"The Dreamer" image came to him in a vision brought about through extreme fatigue. He was working long hours in the studio and at two in the morning, turned and unexpectedly saw a wax head leaning in the corner of the studio. This triggered a full-blown vision of "The Dreamer" image in his mind. This was the only time one of his sculptural images developed in this particular way, and maybe not surprisingly, this image seems to viscerally affect people more than any of his other works.