Sculpture – Butterfly Effect

Several months ago I created a clay sculpture in the shape of a brain when I was at home and then made holes in it with view to turning it into an unusual piece, experimenting with different glazes. Well, it was only after I put it through a bisque firing that I realized I had used the same clay as my infamous “exploding bowls” that had caused me so many challenges earlier in the year, so I put the idea on hold as to how to finish the project.

Fast forward several weeks and I was reminded that there was an exhibition coming up at the Allinson Gallery at Chester County Art Association, with the theme “Color Obsession” so I stirred myself into a flurry of activity and finally created a work over a couple of weeks. To finish this piece I used wire, ten butterflies cut from an old map and several different colored cans of spray paint in place of glaze. I deliberately sprayed the brain outside on a windy day so that it was not an even covering but rather a series of small specks of different colors, which overlaid. It was a bit of a trial mounting the wire frame and then the ceramic onto a wooden board and then adding a burlap cover, but I was pleased with the effect.

Today I was even more surprised when I found that Butterfly Effect was the first piece to be sold in the exhibition!



I had not suffered an earworm for quite a while. I don’t know why this is but I have been grateful for it. Then, while browsing the web last night I stumbled across a youtube video of a couple of girls (twins, in fact) playing Stairway to Heaven on harps for some unbelievable reason. Not since disgraced Aussie entertainer Rolf Harris released his version with a bleedin’ wobble board have I been so appalled. Yes, I know they play their harps beautifully but there are some things that simply should not be done. And tampering with Led Zeppelin’s STH is one of them. Anyhow, that being said. I have now had that great rock classic buzzing around in my head all day. Thankfully, it is Jimmy Page’s ‘58 Telecaster version and not harps!

Last time this happened to me for a week or so it was to Pink Floyd’s, Shine on you Crazy Diamond. At least that time it inspired me to create some artwork based on the arpeggiated chord that became know as “Syd’s Theme.”


This time, it only lasted a few hours.

So, what is an earworm?

Apparently the odd word is an Anglicization of the German “Ohrwurm” which, ironically, has nothing to do with the phenomenon and refers rather to the ancient practice of treating ear diseases by using ground up pieces of the insect we commonly call earwigs!

Very strange indeed.

The modern earworm simply refers to the phenomenon when you cannot get a tune out of your head or, more usually, a particular musical phrase. Interestingly there appears to be no definitive consensus of how or why this happens. Personally, I think it may be linked to human’s innate pattern processing that has evolved for our survival, perhaps akin, though totally unlinked, to pareidolia that I touched on in an earlier post. Most times the earworm will go away on its own, but it can also be replaced by other music or even by engaging the brain’s working memory in moderately difficult logic puzzles such as anagrams or sudoku, which seem to “wipe the biological RAM” so to speak.

In my case creating some art in GIMP did the job, and was a productive exercise too!

Now for the statistics: apparently 98% of us will experience these at some time, so be warned, and let’s hope it’s a great song at least!


In the Mind’s Eye – Pareidolia

This morning I saw the face of Ted Cruz in my toast, or was it Donald Trump, or maybe Donald Duck? It doesn’t matter really as the point of today’s wittering is to discuss the familiar concept, but perhaps unfamiliar term, pareidolia.

Scarcely a day goes by without someone posting on social media that they have seen the face of the Lord (or rather that of Mel Gibson, Robert Powell, or a Renaissance depiction thereof, since no contemporary sketch of Jesus actually exists) in a whole host of everyday objects from avocados to zucchinis. Similarly, when we were kids, and perhaps even now, we’d look up at the clouds and recognize an odd shape (other than a sheep!)

So, what is this all about then?

Pareidolia (/pærᵻˈdoʊliə/ parr-i-doh-lee-ə) is the condition where the human brain looks at an object and also perceives a familiar pattern in that object that simply isn’t there (such as a face). It seems to be an innate characteristic of human beings, probably because we not only have well developed visual processing but, more importantly, because of our cognitive wiring, so to speak. It seems to hinge on us being hard-wired for rapid pattern recognition so that we have a shortcut to enable our brains to quickly identify familiar objects for binary decision making (safe or unsafe, friend or foe, etc.). Pareidolia is when this falls apart slightly and perhaps we miss the visual cues slightly. However, as the visual signal is processed so quickly against our internal reference we cannot help but “see” the object that isn’t really there..

There are many examples of this but perhaps the most (in)famous forced use of the condition is the Rorschach inkblot test which attempts to evoke this state and determine an individual’s mental state based on what the “average” person would see.

However, it also can be used for some interesting artistic effects too.

For example, I was walking in our garden one day and saw the poppy below which reminded me of an angel simply because of the way the petals fell.


Or, by careful choice of camera angle, I was able to evoke another visual interpretation of these two gray vases on a shelf 😉

One thing is for certain, it’s a phenomenon that isn’t going to go away, so why not have some fun and  incorporate it in your next artistic endeavor?


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