The Ninth American Dream, the final painting in Indiana’s American Dream series, provides a retrospective of the artist’s life. The work adopts the modular diamond shaped format of earlier Dreams, however, the number of panels has increased from four to nine, each referencing places, subjects, or events of significance to the artist.
The central panel is devoted to “Love,” the theme for which Indiana is most widely recognized, and one which held great personal meaning to him. The subject’s prominence is due not only to its positioning and the word’s repetition within the circle’s inner perimeter, but to the fact that while the circles in the other panels have danger stripes framing the nine, in this panel a star frames the number. Other significant words, reworked from earlier compositions, appear in the central right and left panels. “Tilt,” “Juke,” “Jack,” and “Jilt” recall the first four Dreams, with their references to pinball culture. “Eat,” “Hug,” “Die,” and “Err” are three letter words found throughout his oeuvre, favored by the artist both for their personal associations and graphic possibilities.
The top three panels reference places where Indiana lived and worked. Vinalhaven, located in Penobscot Bay, Maine, and where Indiana lived from 1978 until his death in 2018, is incorporated into the top panel, and Coenties Slip and The Bowery, two New York neighborhoods where he once had studios, appear in the panels below. One of the lower panels contains the numerals 1–9; not only are numbers important motifs in Indiana’s work, here each number also corresponds to the number of a Dream. The panel to the right contains the text “Remember November,” which refers to the controversy surrounding the 2000 presidential election. It illustrates Indiana’s continued interest in the political situation, and the way historical events also became personal symbols in his work. In the bottom panel, as in The Seventh American Dream, Indiana included his name alongside the phrase “The American Dream;” in his final Dream, a retrospective of his life, he once again inserted himself directly into the work.