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Archive for September 7th, 2011

Rohrshach

I think this is the pelvis from an extraterrestrial being.  Or Wile E. Coyote with his back to a mirror.

My friend in Texas wrote the other day that looking at some of my paintings is a bit like taking a Rohrshach test.  I had never thought of it like that but we do indeed often examine the paintings I present here and try to interpret them in ways that go beyond what they actually appear to be.  A tree becomes more than a tree and the landscape is often expressive of more than a result of geology.  We are filling our interpretations with the same psychological content that one of Rohrshach’s patients might have when he first started using the inkblots as way of diagnosing patients around 1920.

Hermann Rohrshach based his tests on a popular19th century parlor game called Blotto ( or Klecksographie for you German speakers out there.)  There were decks of different cards cards available and a sort of charades-like game was played where you would try to get the other players to see what you saw in the inkblot.  Rohrshach was studying schizophrenic patients and made the inadvertent discovery that they responded quite differently to the game than most other people.  This led him to a systematic examination of their responses which led to the Rohrshach test as we know it.  It was used quite extensively in psychiatric examinations for a number of decades until it began to fall out of favor in the 1960’s.

We used to have some sort of parlor game in the 1960’s based on the Rohrshach test.  I don’t think we ever really played it or even read the instructions and my sister probably doesn’t even remember it.  I remember looking at the cardsat the time and not seeing too much.  A few butterflies.  Sheep.  I saw more interesting things in the folds of the curtains in the living room or in the bark of the trees around our home.  Or the clouds in the sky.  They all seemed more compelling to a child than those goofy inkblots.

But I do see the connection between the tests and what we do as a group here.  Hopefully, some of you don’t see a demon’s head or anything that disturbing when you look at one of my paintings.

 

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