Exceptions Journal

The Art & Literary Journal for Individuals with Visual Disabilities

Category: Art

Intertwining Senses

By Madison Heise

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to smell colors, taste music, or feel a personality? Or to see numbers and letters in vibrant color? This isn’t a weird thing to imagine for everyone – some people, synesthetes, live with those perceptions every day. Synesthesia is a neurological condition where senses are tangled up in the brain so that a sense is simultaneously perceived through one or more other senses. It is estimated that anywhere between one in every 5,000 to one in every 100,000 people have it. This condition has no cure, for neurologists barely have an explanation of where it comes from. It is not debilitating, nor does it have a negative impact on the person who has it. It is actually the opposite – synesthesia makes life just a little bigger and brighter. And I can personally vouch for that.

A painting done by someone with music-color synesthesia.

A painting by artist Melissa McCracken, who has music-to-color synesthesia, paints as she listens to music.

I have synesthesia, and let me tell you, I was shocked when I discovered that not everyone associated colors with letters and numbers. I thought everyone’s “two” was blue, and everyone’s a was pink. About four years ago, I was doing some research on an artist and I stumbled upon the word “synesthesia.” Intrigued, I clicked on it to investigate and ultimately found out that no, not everyone associates colors with words and letters. I read in the English Oxford Living Dictionary that synesthesia means, “The production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body,” which can mean for example, that when one person sees a letter, they automatically associate a color or a personality to it. I automatically identified with this condition and thought it was fascinating. So far, neurologists have found at least 80 different kinds, and after reading about the different forms of synesthesia, I determined that I have grapheme-color, number-form, and personality-color synesthesia. Grapheme-color means that when I see a number, letter, or word, a color is always associated with it. For me, sixes are a purplish, brown color; sevens are bright orange; and the letter s is yellow. Number-form means that I see the names of months and days as if they are floating around me. Depending on the time of year, the word “December” will appear farther or closer to me. For example, in November it seems closer to me; and in June, the word appears farther away. I seem to be able to visualize time as a circle around and in front of me. And lastly, personality-color means that I involuntarily associate a color to people’s personalities. My mom is a hot pink, and my dad is a strong yellow color.

We synesthetes go our whole lives thinking everyone is the same way until we find out what synesthesia is. Synesthesia has inspired many authors, artists, and musicians such as Van Gogh, Vladimir Nabokov, and even guitarist Eddie Van Halen. I feel grateful to be in the presence of so many wonderful artists. It’s definitely something that I feel blessed to have and wouldn’t trade for anything since it can make life so much more beautiful and colorful.

Opening up the Door: Basic ways to turn art into activism

Basic tips from an up and coming activist

By Hannah Warren

When I was growing up, my high school had a small writer’s club that held two annual events each year. Though mainly generalized by students as poetry reading, there were some who made the event a mission to make music, weave words into complex stories, to make their voices vessels of art.  Students from all different groups often came up to display their talents while also letting open a small window for strangers to embrace their aura of emotion.  However, now more than ever, that window needs to be upgraded to a door. Red poster with black and white lettering and the face of a woman with flowers in her hair that says Make Art Not War.Though one doesn’t always need an elevated platform to be heard in order to resist, persist, or even exercise a peaceful belief system, you must be ready to perform in order to promote activism.

In this day and age, everyone needs to understand that for everything and every thought set loose on the world, there is always an underlying impact. So, know your cause. Not every piece of art needs to be affiliated with one, you could write a poem about cats with the meaning simply being that you adore cats and that is fine, but be ready for an assumptive populace to think that all cat lovers love cats the way you do. Individual cat lovers have their own way of showing love to cats but in the time where everyone has come to view group branding as a way to understand a stranger completely, knowing what cause your art (and you yourself) are advocating for makes it that much more powerful for those observing as well as yourself.

Another thing everyone can do to turn their art piece into a work of activism is to collaborate. Find other people that share your calling to a cause, and figure out how to use your collective creative stylings to make into an even bigger event or project. No matter who you are or where you come from, there are people out there who think in similar ways to you and live similar lifestyles. You just have to find them, and then realize that you need to not only show others your passion but also come to terms with the fact that the world must understand and know your cause. Work together to layout the goals of your collaborative art piece and let your collective passion guide you.

The last basic tip on transforming your art into activism today is to listen. Basically, this would be the point in which you’d find out the results. Sometimes the impact is immediate and intense, other times it will inspire on a smaller scale. For those working in the vision impaired community though this model, and others like it, are so important because of the techniques and inspiration you can give to others. By listening to what others say about your work, you can expand upon your art, maybe creating a whole exhibition on your cause, you can learn from listening, understand from it and make yourself that much more stronger. Your activism could lead others to creating art and eventually give them the keys to open up the doors of their emotion until everyone’s door is open.

*image from www.shepardfaireyprints.com


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