Painter Melissa McCracken’s synesthesia transforms music into colors, inspiring her newest series Song Portraits.
Synesthesia, a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sense can trigger an involuntary sensory experience in another—for example “hearing” color, or “tasting” a sound—is an unusual muse for creatives ranging from musicians to perfumers. While an average human’s sense mechanisms operate autonomously, synesthetes often fuse one or more senses, or cognitive pathways, simultaneously. The trait is a quirk of evolution that affects roughly 2-4 percent of the population, and has 60 known forms. Missouri painter Melissa McCracken has synesthesia and when she hears a song it instantly transforms into a pastiche of color and vibrant life. The artist’s recent “song portraits,” a series based on her synesthetic experiences, are centered on these visions. She uses oil and acrylic paint as her medium, so that the canvas becomes a backdrop for the the sensory neurons firing in her brain. Below, take a trip through the mind of McCracken, in glorious detail: