Can you taste words? Do you associate colors with specific letters of the alphabet or numbers? If you do, you might have a rare neurological condition known as synesthesia, which allows senses to intersect with one another instead of operating independently in separate cognitive pathways. This condition affects roughly 2-4 percent of the population and is, unsurprisingly, more prevalent among creatives, including one gifted artist named Melissa McCracken in Kansas City, Missouri, whose visual and audio sensations are crossed, resulting in her amazing ability to paint what she hears.
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.
McCracken’s statement on her website explains:
Basically, my brain is cross-wired. I experience the “wrong” sensation to certain stimuli. Each letter and number is colored and the days of the year circle around my body as if they had a set point in space. But the most wonderful “brain malfunction” of all is seeing the music I hear. It flows in a mixture of hues, textures, and movements, shifting as if it were a vital and intentional element of each song.
McCracken has created art for songs by Radiohead (that’s her take on “Karma Police” above), John Lennon, David Bowie, Smashing Pumpkins, Etta James, Stevie Wonder, John Mayer and dozens more. The works are fascinating, surreal and colorful. You can check them out here – while listening to the corresponding song.