Serena Kovalosky, Artful Vagabond


What would it be like to taste voices? What if we experienced each letter of the alphabet as a different color? And when we saw colors, what kind of music would they make?

Many of the world’s famous creatives, from David Hockney to Stevie Wonder, and Baudelaire to Duke Ellington, have what is known as synesthesia, a neurological phenomenon where the stimulation of one sense leads to an instant and involuntary response in a different sense. Some synesthetes experience color when they hear sounds or read words, experiencing the written language as a rush of colour associations, while others experience tastes, smells, shapes or touches in almost any combination.

Synesthesia is a relatively rare condition, and although not all synesthetes are artists, some studies state that synesthesia is eight times more common among poets, artists, writers and musicians than the general population.

Mirjam Mölder-Mikfelt is a synesthetic artist. Her use of color in her paintings is inspired by her synesthetic experiences and is central to her work. She loves the colors she sees and feels; for her, they are the colors of life and love.

“Synesthesia has a great influence on my paintings,” says Mikfelt. “It keeps me inspired to constantly play with colors and explore new ways to express myself. My choice of color always comes from synesthetic perceptions. Vivid hues in my works give an expression of powerful emotions of vibrant love.”

“Due to synesthesia, my sensations are really intense and colorful. I often find myself floating in feelings of pure euphoria, it’s inexplicably amazing! 

Within the creation process, I always feel the urge to listen to music. Music has a strong affect on me, evoking positive energy I need for painting and making my mind whirl in a rush of colors.”

 Untitled by Mirjam Mölder-Mikfelt. Copyright © Mirjam Mölder-Mikfelt

“Synesthesia allows me to associate events and moments of my life with specific color. The painting above, for example, was done briefly after getting home from my honeymoon. It was a truly magical time for me, full of some of the most wonderful emotions. I just let myself get lost in the creative flow by showing my miraculous experiences on canvas – saying what words can’t. Looking at this painting now, five years after creating it, I feel all those beautiful memories and sensations of that time period coming back to me. I remember every moment as I painted it and the music I listened to, because the colors of these days are present in this painting.”

As an artist, I have often imagined what a sunset might taste like, or what sound the color blue might make, but unlike Mirjam Mölder-Mikfelt, my interpretations are merely poetic ones and could never rival the intensity of the synesthetic experience. So for those of us who do not have synesthesia, I will be posting a video tomorrow that features a fascinating interpretation of the synesthetic experience.

- SerenaK