Sensing Colour

Last winter, I applied to speak at 4 different conferences, while also organizing a 2-day online symposium for the International Association of Synaesthetes, Artists, and Scientists. I was so excited to get back into my independent research and to reconnect with my friends in the neurodiversity movement that I didn’t give enough consideration to the time demands of completing all these projects within an 8-week window. My application for one of the conferences got rejected; I was relieved instead of disappointed by this news. But I had my artworks and abstracts accepted to the three other events. I feel like I’ve been going nonstop since the start of 2022.

One of my creative projects is Radiographica a series of had-colored radiographs and MRIs. I have multiple forms of synaesthesia including grapheme-color and lexeme-color; I see all of my numbers and letters in color, and I also see words in color. Words (lexemes) are not broken into the colors of their individual letters, but instead, appear uniformly shaded in the color of the first letter. For example, the word synaesthesia is primary blue, because my letter S is primary blue. The word writer is burgundy because my letter W is burgundy, and so on. When I look at plain x-rays or MRI images at work, even though they are displayed in grayscale, I see an overlay of color based on the names of the bones, the orthopedic landmarks, and the nomenclature of pathology. 

For several years, I have been printing grayscale x-rays and MRIs to 100-pound paper, then coloring them in the ways I synesthetically perceive the image. It’s been intriguing for me to take a deep dive into this creative practice, and I have twice presented images from the Radiographica collection at symposia. The first was at the 2018 Fundación Internacional Artecittà events in Alcalá la Real, Spain, where I presented a poster on the topic. Recently, I presented another poster along with a paper on my perception of grayscale images in color for the International Colour Association symposium in Toronto, Canada. This paper and poster had the cheeky name Fifty Shades of Grayscale: orthopedic structures as perceived by a manual therapist with synesthesia”.

I had hoped to travel to Toronto to participate in the International Association of Colour’s conference “Sensing Color”, which had been planned as a four-day in-person event at OCAD: Ontario College of Art and Design. I’ve wanted to visit that campus and its collections for many years now, and I thought this was going to be my chance. But, due to COVID concerns, “Sensing Colour” was hosted online June 13th-16th 2022. I’m glad I was able to attend online, and participate in all of the intriguing presentations.

On the last day of the conference, I received an email informing me that my paper was up for an award. I was surprised by this news; as an independent scholar, I often feel a bit on the fringes at these events where, unlike most of the participants, I am not representing a university. I thought that maybe I was under consideration for a small prize, a runner up designation, or something like that in the poster category where there were more than forty presenters. But after all of the poster prizes were announced, and the lighting industry winners were presented, I was shocked to learn that I received the “Sensing Colour” Award for the presentation that most embodied the theme of the conference.

Three weeks later, I am still on cloud nine after winning this award. One component of the prize is an invitation to speak at the Kaleidoscope Lecture Series, which is hosted by The Colour Research Society of Canada (CRSC), which is the Canadian member organization of the  International Colour Association (AIC). I don’t know when I will have this opportunity to speak, but I will definitely post a link when the date is set.