Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Friday Rorschach: The Rothko Frames

Frames, construction paper, 2014
This is one of my daughter's pieces of art. She was working quietly in her room for about an hour, then she ran downstairs, shoved them in my wife's hands, said, "Here, take these!" and ran back upstairs.

What it is: According to my daughter, they are picture frames. She cut pieces of construction paper and glued them onto other pieces of construction paper. She said she did not know how she chose which colors should go together; instead, she just started gluing. Each piece is about 10X10, and it is a pretty spectacular site in person. The colors are vivid and bold. It is well balanced, and the shapes jump out at the viewer. The brain makes them into a series of perfect squares, but they are all clearly different.

Our plan is to attach them to a canvas and hang them in our house.

What you thought it was: Every week, I think, "No one is going to be able to do anything with this. I have finally stumped everyone!" And, that is never the case. In fact, I received a record number of responses this week, all of which I retweeted. By the end of the day, I think I also received 10 unfollows, presumably from people who were highly annoyed by my hijacking of their Twitter feed for the entire day.

I was wondering if most people would have difficulty looking past the literal nature of this picture. After all, it really is just a bunch of squares of paper with no definitive form demand. And as suspected, the most common response was a fairly literal one. 

Normally, a response such as, "A group of squares with different colored squares glued to them" would come from a person who uses intellectualization as a defense mechanism. Rather than looking past the literal to expose a person's creativity, the intellectualizer will hide behind a logical process to keep from becoming too vulnerable in front of others. In this case however, I think the high number of literal responses had to do with the abstract nature of the picture rather than a lack of vulnerability (Friday Rorschachers have proven to me on numerous occasions that they are not afraid of showing their vulnerable side).

Here are a few literal responses:

The next most common response was food. On the real Rorschach, food responses sometimes indicate a desire to deal with immediate need states as soon as they are experienced. For example, someone who is hungry and has a strong need to deal with his/her hunger as soon as possible will see food everywhere. Think of Loony Toons cartoons where one hungry character looks at another hungry character, whose head magically turns into a chicken leg.

There is also a psychoanalytic theory that people who see food in abstract shapes are overly dependent on others for emotional support. I'm not sure I completely agree with that theory--it seems equally possible that people who see food are nurturing and want to provide sustenance to others:

A number of people used the repeating pattern in the picture to place a form demand onto it:

Several of you created stories:

A few of you came up with art comparisons (which my daughter thought was awesome):

The artist, examining a Rothko

A bunch of you saw architectural details (mostly from an arial viewpoint):

And then there were the creative responses:

You've got to love the serendipity of this one:

And finally, my favorite for the week:

What you might have missed: Sparkles! No one used the sparkles in their responses, although it was tough to see them in the original picture. Those sparkles are all over our house, by the way.

Here is an up-close view:

One last thought: Some of you add a question mark to the end of your response. As in, "A series of transistors on a microchip?" There is no need to be tentative about your responses. If you see something, you see it. Be bold!

Thanks for reading-- Max Wachtel, Ph.D.

Friday Rorschach is a fun project designed to engage readers' creativity. To participate, follow Max on twitter. He posts the drawing every Friday morning around 10am ET/8am MT. There are no wrong answers to the Friday Rorschach.


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