Apophenia – An Artist Statement

Apophenia – An Artist Statement

“Personally, I don’t believe I have been provided with special powers, but rather with a capacity to quickly see cause and effect relationships outside of the ordinary limits of common logic.” – Remedios Varo

This body of work began with a fascination with what I would call “moments of importance.”  These are times when I feel a certain rightness or beauty from a collection of objects or concurrence of sensory input.  At these times I feel called to attention, to look closer at what I am seeing or experiencing.  I often track and remember these feelings by taking a photo so that I can call myself back to what I experienced.

I started investigating this fascination by looking through these photos and selecting ones to paint as a means of further meditation on this particular and hard to describe feeling.  I desired not so much to understand why these moments or objects felt important, but to magnify that feeling by focus, to exist within that feeling for longer periods of time and see what percolated out of the process.

As I worked I tracked phrases and images that arose from the ground of this meditation, my goal being to follow the feeling of  “rightness” independent of logic.  My process was reminiscent of the game I used to play as a teenager which I termed “Table Chess” in which a friend and I would sit on either side of a table and arrange given objects into different patterns on whim, endlessly.  Or as the artist Remedios Varo writes “[I] have grasped the interdependence of the objects and the necessity of placing them in a certain way”.  As I was drawn to include certain objects or moments it seemed that even more correspondences arose, with objects relating to other objects, paintings to other paintings, constellations of words and images with myself as the central star.

"When the Moment Finally Came, I Felt Surprisingly at Peace", oil and tempera on panel, 8"x6", 2017

“When the Moment Finally Came, I Felt Surprisingly at Peace”, oil and tempera on panel, 8″x6″, 2017

"The Garden", oil on panel, 24"x24", 2017

“The Garden”, oil on panel, 24″x24″, 2017

"Vesica", oil and tempera on panel, 10"x10", 2017

“Vesica”, oil and tempera on panel, 10″x10″, 2017


Peter Carroll talks about the drawing of such connections, or finding patterns where others don’t, as Apophenia.  The term was coined in the 50’s to describe acute Schizophrenic symptoms in which patients find meaning where there is none, a precursor to delusions.  However Carroll’s view was that the term can have positive implications “when it implies finding something important, useful or beautiful.”

These concurrent meanings fascinate me – on one side madness, the other side genius.  It leaves me asking what constitutes a “real” connection.  If it is that it be agreed upon as logical by a certain group or culture, where is the space for individual thought?  If it is left purely to the individual, an experience had is a “real experience” regardless of its uniqueness, but what is its usefulness?

Returning to the paintings, I found that what captivated me about each of the original images is my feeling of their importance despite any obvious reason that I should respond that way. Logically, I could find no reason for a chicken bone or a moment when I pricked my finger to be intriguing and this lack of obvious narrative made me focus more on them. My desire to follow my affinity towards each image, despite this incongruity, is central to this work and perhaps to opening the magical eye in general. Extending that curiosity through the meditation of painting opened me to further experiences of beauty and rightness, surprising thoughts and associations. You can see these through the white “ghost” images in many of the pieces.

Giving my experience of Apophenia room to be valid allowed me to embrace my ability to create meaning based off of my experience without the need for it to be validated by an outside source. I found that my willingness to engage this process led me further into touching upon of the non-ordinary and even the mystical.

"What My Blood Knows", oil on panel, 24"x24", 2017

“What My Blood Knows”, oil on panel, 24″x24″, 2017


"A Collection of Items on the Threshold" oil and tempera on panel, 8"x8", 2017

“A Collection of Items on the Threshold” oil and tempera on panel, 8″x8″, 2017

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