What is synesthesia

Synesthesia is a condition in which one sense (hearing, sight, smell, sound, taste) is simultaneously and spontaneously perceived as if by one or more additional senses. Sometimes synesthetes join objects such as letters, shapes, numbers or people’s names with a sensory perception such as smell, color or flavor. For example, sounds can be perceived as swirling colors. A synesthete may not only taste their food – the may “hear” their food.

Over 60 types of synesthesia have been defined and people experience it in different ways. Below is a video that explains grapheme-color synesthesia (seeing letters and numbers as colors) and chromesthesia (seeing sounds as colors).

A subset of autistic artists exhibit this crossing over of the senses.

Here are some examples of synesthetes who have posted on the Art of Autism.

Artist Jeremy Sicile-Kira sees colors. This influences his art and enables him to paint people’s colors.

The Beautiful Colors of Dave Matthews
Jeremy Sicile-Kira “The Beautiful Colors of Dave Matthews”

Artist Joel Anderson sees colors as attributes. He has written a song titled Colors of my Mind about this. “I see joy in green, courage in blue, Strength in red, love in yellow too.”

Artist Patrick Jasper Lee sees shapes – such as triangles, circles and rectangles. He has written a book about this titled Living in a Geometric Universe.

Artist James Frye hears colors.

James Frye The Keyboardist
James Frye “The Keyboardist”

Header image: Jeremy Sicile-Kira “The Vibrant Colors of the Opera Carmen”