Why Syn’s Eye?


I have synesthesia. I discovered this in 1995 while in grad school when a particularly intuitive guest artist asked me what color the word “photography” is to me. When I said, “swirling pink and brown” he informed me that not everybody sees words in color. This surprised me. But it explained why, in a critique a few days earlier I received 12 blank stares when I described Tuesday as orange. Cody suggested I read The Man Who Tasted Shapes, and this changed my world.

I thought everybody saw words, letters, days of the week, months and years in color. I thought everybody tasted color. I thought everybody “heard” color in music. Some music color is so “loud” it fills a room. Smashing Pumpkins create an orange-red-yellow swirling, creamy fog when turned up loud. Nirvana’s music looks more like a gradient from pale, diode-green to a deep sea-indigo. These colors are not associative; they represent as part of the experience of listening to the music.

I have never used a date book. Oh, I’ve tried. But the blank white pages confuse the natural calender in my head that is neatly divided into blocks of time defined by color. Friday has always been red. 2:00 has always been pale green. So when I have a party to attend (like today) my brain searches for something blue floating in an orange field – the image that appeared when I read the invitation – and there it is.
So that’s my synesthesia. It’s fairly mild compared to many accounts I’ve read over the past 15 years, but it works for me. I think the synesthesia explains why, as much as I love a beautiful black and white silver print, I’m always drawn to color. I especially love a rich, inky Epson print. The viscosity of the inks are the closest in texture to the colors in my head that flow into my life and my art.
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2 thoughts on “Why Syn’s Eye?

  1. Madeline, Really am enjoying your images and comments…and this recent blog entry from Sandi Wiseheart (Wiseheart Knits) seemed on target: " I’m one of those folks who actually can hear colours. They make sounds for me, like brown is a bit like an oboe, and green is higher and lighter-sounding. It’s called synesthesia, and I thought everyone was like this up until about ten years ago. I was working as a computer nerd at UC San Diego, and one of the grad students was explaining his research project to me…and I was a little shocked at why he would be studying “people who hear colours” as though that was unusual. I asked him why he didn’t study folks who DIDN’T hear colours, actually. That’s when he looked at me, smiled, and asked me what sound blue made. He explained that not everyone could answer that."

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