What would you do if the sounds you encountered every day were accompanied by an involuntary flurry of color? Or, say, a David Bowie song tasted like eggplant? For those with synesthesia, events like this can happen every minute of every day.
In most cases, the human senses operate independently from one another in separate cognitive pathways. But for roughly 2-4 percent of the population, these pathways intersect and link together two or more senses. For Missouri artist Melissa McCracken, this means that when she listens to a song, she sees color. McCracken’s series of “song portraits” brings her synesthete experiences to millions, and the results are beautiful. (Click on each song title to hear the track that inspired each painting.)
For McCracken, putting oil and acrylic paint to canvas is about capturing melodies and rhythms as only she can, as the possibilities of cognitive pathway overlaps mean that every person with synesthesia sees or feels different things. Some experience bodily sensations from sounds, with others even tasting words. There are at least 60 known forms of synesthesia, and its presence is approximately seven times more likely in creative types.