Wednesday, September 8, 2010


No Lisa, 2010

If it’s true that our brains are wired to try to make new things we see fit into the molds of things we’ve seen before, then I guess it’s good I have a lot of patterns stored in my mind. I’m not that good a student of art history, though, that I remember all the details of hundreds of paintings from across the ages. But I do remember enough images and enough shapes and patterns that the photo above immediately brought to mind the pointy crown of yellow hair Matt Groening gave Lisa Simpson and the sinewy slipper curve of the figure in the abstract image below immediately recalled every painting of a reclining odalisk I’ve ever seen (save the Rauschenberg Odalisk).

Poolside Odalisk, 2010

I once read an account—no doubt the inspiration for The Gods Must Be Crazy—of a sociologist who took an elderly native African who’d spent his entire life in the most isolated reaches of Africa to a conference in modern day London. The account reports that the African was fascinated by the different clothing Londoners wore, and that they wore clothes at all. But when the social scientist tried to show the African an airplane, the native was completely uninterested, the conclusion being that the idea of man flying in an airplane was so without precedent in his neural wiring that he simply had no place to attach the concept in his brain.

I don’t know if that’s completely true, or not. I do know that the African man simply had no special interest in the airplane because it was just one more strange thing in a place full of unusual things he’d never experienced before.

The good thing is that it’s possible to train your mind not to fall into those same traps. For the real creative geniuses, this kind of lateral thinking seems to come naturally. For the rest of us, it takes conscious effort to connect dots that don’t usually connect or, better still, to recognize whole new constellations of dots and connections that are only visible to those who allow themselves the freedom and make the effort to see them.


  1. Interesting! I'm always intrigued with people who make fascinating connections between seemingly disparate things. Love these images.

  2. I fear that the conscious effort mentioned eludes most of us, most of the time no matter how we try, but that's just my take.

    The odalisque image made me think of Francis Bacon on acid.