Neuroscience Art Gallery
February 21, 2002 7:39 AM   Subscribe

Neuroscience Art Gallery Cats Painted in the Progression of Psychosis of a Schizophrenic Artist .....
posted by bunnyfire (23 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, deja vu all over again. First, the pictures--which I saw in high school and which were a cliche of every article on psychedelics pre-1967 and since, and second, well, I guess I don't have to draw anyone another picture...

And a cat playing cards is normal?
posted by y2karl at 7:47 AM on February 21, 2002

bunnyfire: why are you still posting? i thought you quit.
posted by mlang at 7:52 AM on February 21, 2002

Does anyone wonder after the fact that the author's name is "Cardoso" and the website may be viewed in Portugese? Hmmmm... spouse-post by proxy?!

Welcome back, Bunnyfire :)
posted by UncleFes at 7:53 AM on February 21, 2002

For the fan of Louis Wain, Wainsworld is a must. Party on! Excellent!
posted by iceberg273 at 8:00 AM on February 21, 2002

I've seen these pictures before, but it's a fascinating site (welcome back, bunnyfire). The coloured halos around the cats in the psychotic period paintings which the site says are "usually found in paintings by psychotics" really make me wonder. If this is a theme common to psychotics' paintings, is this because they actually *see* these things as if they were real, or are they trying to illustrate what the world looks like through psychosis? (I do actually see those as two different things, but I may not be explaining the difference well: what I mean is that I know some schizophrenics can recognise some hallucinations *as* hallucinations, but find others indistiguishable from reality, and I wonder which this is). I.e. Is the artist showing us what the real world looks like to him, or is he consciously showing us his impression of what his illness makes the real world look like?
posted by biscotti at 8:03 AM on February 21, 2002

Thanks for the link. It's been a while since I've seen these pictures. I've never seen his "normal" paintings before.

The analysis of his pictures was very Freudian - would be interesting to hear a more current interpretation.

y2karl - they do bring to mind certain - "altered states" I was a willing participant in during my misguided youth.

From the Wainsworld site:

In 1914 aged 54 he suffered concussion having been thrown from a horse drawn bus

A reminder that our personalities, perceptions, ideas, memories that we regard as "us" are dependent on bundles of neurons - (fall down the stairs? Whoops! There goes high school!) Why mental illness should still be treated differently than any other illness makes no sense to me. Especially since it is so often just a symptom of a so-called "real" illness.
posted by groundhog at 8:27 AM on February 21, 2002

The last couple of paintings remind me of fractals.
posted by Outlawyr at 8:52 AM on February 21, 2002

Great link. Thank you bunnyfire. I'm glad that you are back. The circumstances of your leaving left me with some questions concerning the MeFi "community". Please keep returning to post great stuff like this.
posted by xammerboy at 8:57 AM on February 21, 2002

After faking their own deaths and spying on their own funeral, Tom and Huck return to the loving arms of the community.
posted by Ty Webb at 9:29 AM on February 21, 2002

The cat is alerted by an intuitional feeling that something is amiss. Reality is not exactly as it seems. Her curiosity is piqued and the spirit of adventure comes alive.
I take that as proof that much of art criticism (including lit crit) is more about the creativity of the critic in using the "artwork" as a jumping-off point for his own flight of fancy, than it is about the artwork itself.
posted by yesster at 9:35 AM on February 21, 2002

That's the scariest thing I've seen all day. Good link by the way.
posted by insomnyuk at 10:18 AM on February 21, 2002

That's the most brilliant thing I've seen in some time. Thanks bunnyfire.
posted by homunculus at 10:36 AM on February 21, 2002

Is is just me, or are the paintings from the "Normal Period" even more disturbing than the psychotic ones? The painting of the cats sitting around the table is particularly creepy. There's some serious nightmare fuel here, as the 'bots would say.
posted by MrBaliHai at 10:41 AM on February 21, 2002

Tastes differ. As I've seen these pictures, groundhog, a thousand times in a thousand articles on psychedelics since the beginning of time and, as they're a cliche of a cliche, it's a trite post to me. If you kids haven't seen them before... Quick! Go to the globe and point out Madagascar! Boy, talk about cultural amnesia. As for the return of bunnyfire, well and good, but she should consider the all-for-nothing uproar she caused in announcing her departure in the first place. An apology called for in the approriate thread of the catbox .
posted by y2karl at 10:45 AM on February 21, 2002

That link is interesting, and I like the art. However, it's unclear to me as to whether the artist intended to show the stages of psychosis through that progression, or whether he had a different goal entirely. If the latter, he could of course have done it subconsciously, or the author of the piece could be imposing her own text on the paintings.

As for the discussions on MetaTalk, seems to me that any extensions of same should stay on MetaTalk unless they are directly relevant to this post.
posted by bingo at 10:57 AM on February 21, 2002

I suppose you're right, bingo, pardon the ventilation. And it does link to more stuff.
posted by y2karl at 11:08 AM on February 21, 2002

I never liked the assumption that because a mentally-ill person starts painting "weird stuff" its because its a product of their illness and not a desire to portray things in odd ways. Its not like your entire perception system goes to hell as you develop schizophrenia, though I'm sure any altered state will develop things outside that person's norm.

Look at the first set of paintings. How normal is a bunch of cats acting like people? Its creepy that we take that painting without considering it too deeply, but when someone goes against photographic realism its suddenly INSANE! Last I checked Picasso wasn't off the deep end when he entered his cubist stage.

I'm not denying his illness changed him and must have affected his art, but the bottom paintings aren't exactly the physical manifestation of schizophrenia and I'm more curious to know if he cared to paint cats as people anymore as it was pretty damn hackneyed work to begin with. All they're missing is the poker cards. It seems to me that mental illness in artists makes a great selling point and I think Dali made some great attempts at exploiting that situation.

"Is he crazy? I dunno. He's more interesting now that he came out of a giant egg."
posted by skallas at 1:26 PM on February 21, 2002

Yesster – I am somewhat in agreement with you. You can only believe in a critic as much as you want to.
Looking at the work of a psychotic patient and then looking at the work of another person and labeling them psychotic without any justification other than This fragment showing a representation of hell, made by the earlier 16th century artist, Hienonymus Bosch, has been considered one of the most frightening imageries of the devil ever produced in painting. Little is known about Bosch, but this scene depicts many aspects frequently attributed to the art of psychotics: dismembered bodies, half-human monsters and violent anatomic distortions. Bosch died in 1516. does not seem like a smart move by someone with a PhD. That kind of misidentified reasoning was very popular with Signs of Satanism. So I guess if you want to be known as a Satanic Artist use some of these symbols just remember These symbols compiled by Pastor Billy Bissell. Pastor Bissell served as a Chaplin and Ritualistic Crime Consultant for the Police Dept. in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Please give him credit if you use them.
posted by sailormouth at 2:37 PM on February 21, 2002

Its not like your entire perception system goes to hell as you develop schizophrenia,

skallas, um, actually it kinda is. I'm not commenting on the art here, 'cause I'm not an art critic. But give the desease its due; Schizophrenia does fuck up your physical expression of perception. No one can see what a schizophrenic sees, but we know that as perception internalizes, expression becomes pretty frenetic.
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:32 PM on February 21, 2002

From what I know of schizophrenia, its the cognitive workings that go screwey, not the actual perceptions. A cat still looks like a cat, but the emotion that expresses itself when you see a cat is very different. Its not what a schizophrenic sees it what she feels. What I'm trying to get at is that the top paintings could very well be an expression of schizophrenia as much as the bottom ones depending on whether the schizophrenic was in a manic/crazed episode or not.

There something wrong with equating non-photorealistic images with mental illness when realistic images can have the same meaning. Depending on how badly ill the artist is, what mood she is currently in, etc she could be a fine baroque painter making an equally "crazy" statement. In short, squiggly lines and non-realistic portrayals don't have much in common with mental illness, they're just a shorthand for critics to make a point.
posted by skallas at 3:45 PM on February 21, 2002

skallas: From what I know of schizophrenia, its the cognitive workings that go screwey, not the actual perceptions. A cat still looks like a cat, but the emotion that expresses itself when you see a cat is very different.

No. Schizophrenia (not always, but often) involves a misfiring of one or more of the five senses. You might hear a sound that was not made, you might see something that isn't there. And, yes, the "cognitive workings" can "go screwy," too, although technically that's what's making the perceptive abilities misfire to begin with, as I understand it.

However, I agree with your basic point about interpreting art, including this:

There something wrong with equating non-photorealistic images with mental illness when realistic images can have the same meaning.
posted by bingo at 4:10 PM on February 21, 2002

pardon? aren't all artists mentally ill?
posted by eatdonuts at 11:01 PM on February 21, 2002

Funny that he went schizo while contemplating cats; some have theorized that cat-bourne contagions cause schizophrenia.
posted by gojomo at 4:30 AM on February 25, 2002

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