Seeing Sound and Painting Music

Art Gallery on Display at Orlando Science Center through October 22

Until recently, musician Christina Eve didn’t know she experienced the world differently. Born with Synesthesia, a rare neurological anomaly, Christina is able to see shapes and colors when she hears sound. To her it’s completely normal but for most of us it’s hard to imagine. That’s why Orlando Science Center is thrilled to host her artwork this fall in FUSION: A STEAM Gallery through October 22, 2019.  


Inherently attracted to music at a very young age, Christina pursued music her entire life. She began to paint what she saw in the hope that she could share the beauty of sound that so many of us cannot visualize. This provides rare insight into how the senses interact in the brain, to form our perception of the world around us.


We connected with Christina to discuss her synesthesia and artwork.


What synesthesia is and what kind you have?

Synesthesia is neurological condition, where two or more of the five senses (smell, sight, taste, sound, and touch) are linked. For me specifically, I have Chromesthesia so when I hear sound, I see colors and shapes. But specifically when I hear music, that’s when I see the most stunning colors and shapes, or photisms.


How old were you when you discovered your synesthesia?

I was 23 and a lot of us are older when we figure it out. Synesthetes are born with it, so it’s our reality. It made me really sad in college when I talked to my classmates in my music classes about a piece we’d be working on and I thought “wow, you don’t see this?”


Were you just able to pick up painting?
I never felt like my synesthesia had to be portrayed until I found out other people couldn’t see what I saw. I was so heartbroken that I decided to start painting to show people the stunning images that I see. But I see myself as a musician, I really don’t identify as a [visual] artist. When I first started, I had no artistic training and only did one or two paintings. Then my life got turned upside down a couple years ago, so I started doing painting therapeutically. I would put on music and paint what I saw and people started telling me this is beautiful.

I DON'T WANT TO DISAPPOINT YOU depicting the music of Thom Yorke
I DON'T WANT TO DISAPPOINT YOU depicting the music of Thom Yorke
NOR EARTH, NOR BOUNDLESS SEA depicting the music of Max Richter
NOR EARTH, NOR BOUNDLESS SEA depicting the music of Max Richter

Could you tell us about your upcoming gallery at OSC?
Pretty much everything I’ve ever done is going up. I will have the title of song I listened to for each painting. I’ll also have some newer pieces up that I call “Sleep,” it’s from composer Max Richter, who worked with a neuroscientist to write an eight-hour composition meant for the different stages and brain functions of sleep. When I listen to this I fall asleep to it and I try to capture the images when I’m in the hypnogogic state. This is the first time I’ve painted stuff for when I’m half-asleep.


What type of genres do you listen to when you paint?
I listen to a lot of different music, country music is yellow and brown so I stay away from that. A lot of classical, indie music, electronic music. I paint a lot of Radiohead and Bon Iver.


What is your process for creating your pieces? How do you find the music you want to paint?

As a synesthete, listening to music is always an extraordinary experience since my ears, eyes, heart, and mind are all inundated. If I hear a song that’s just very powerful and colorful I take it into my studio and I just start to paint on a canvas until it looks like what I’m seeing.


What do you want people to take away from your gallery?

When viewing my art, I hope you will be encouraged to seek out what is hidden from the eyes. Some of us may experience the world differently than most, but we all have ways to express and share beauty. As an artist, I’ve discovered that much of the synesthetic imagery I see can effectively communicate other invisible concepts, like joy or despair, or loneliness or hope. The mission of my work is to give voice to those experiences of humanity as a way to offer empathy and compassion, and to build community by sharing the hidden beauty I see.

Be sure to check out Christina's gallery, now on display at Orlando Science Center, through October 22!