Synethesia: Art and the Mind, Today Saturday, October 19 at 4pm

Synethesia: Art and the Mind.
Greta Berman, The Juillard School.
$10 / $5 WAAM members.

“We all see the world in our own way” is a commonly accepted truism. However, most of us really assume that everyone sees things the same way we do.

Synesthesia, the involuntary joining of the senses, is one demonstration of how variously people can perceive.

But what is synesthesia?


Many art historians who have written about the interrelationships of music and art have appropriated the term “synesthesia” as a label for these interconnections among the arts. In fact, it actually means something quite different. By no means unique to artists or musicians, synesthesia has been identified by psychologists as a specific condition that occurs when an individual who receives a stimulus in one sense modality simultaneously experiences a sensation in another.

Synesthesia was historically thought to occur in only a few definite forms. The most common one, familiar to those in the arts and sciences who have heard of it, is ‘colored hearing’, the coming together of color and musical sound. Art historians have thought that synesthetic artists limited themselves to only this form for creating visual art. However, thanks to current and ongoing research by scholars in many fields, we now know that ‘colored sound’ is only one of many types of synesthesia that visual artists use. In fact, they might employ any of 54, or more, different forms.

Berman’s talk will demonstrate some of the myriad forms this phenomenon can take among both visual artists and musicians.

Greta Berman

Greta Berman

Greta Berman has taught at Juilliard since 1979.  She specializes in Art History. She holds a B.A. from Antioch University, Yellow Springs, Ohio, an M.A. from the University of Stockholm, and a Ph. D from Columbia University.

She has written articles for numerous periodicals, including Arts Magazine, Art in America, Konsthistorisk Tidskrift, Gazette des Beaux Arts, and Art Bulletin.  She has curated shows in many museums, most recently, “Synesthesia: Art and the Mind” at the McMaster Museum of Art, Hamilton, Ontario, 2008.  She has authored and co-authored several books and catalogs, including the catalog for the McMaster exhibition.

Professor Berman has lectured and chaired panels in the United States, Europe, China, and Japan. Her special interests have included mural painting and art during the Roosevelt era of the New Deal, interrelationships between music and art, and synesthesia.

She currently lives in New York City, and teaches at Juilliard.  She contributes a monthly column to the Juilliard Journal called “Focus on Art.”

For more information please contact Beth Humphrey WAAM museum educator

679-2198 ext 104 or

WAAM Dialogues are made possible  

with support from

  the New York State Council on the Arts and  

the Milton and Sally Avery Foundation

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