A recent photo posted to Twitter — of a dog’s image in a piece of wood — gets me to thinking: Why is almost always Jesus (or sometimes his mom) and dogs (or sometimes other animals) that show up in inanimate objects, i.e. inside wood, on grilled cheeses, in potato chips, Cheetos, peirogies, tortillas or cinnamon buns?
There are exceptions to the Jesus and dogs rule — potatoes that look like George Washington, chicken nuggets that resemble Abraham Lincoln — but even then it’s commonly what we cherish most (such as beloved presidents) that we think we see.
Chris Blundell recently posted the image at the top of this post on his Twitter page.
There, it was quickly joined by more reader submitted photos of dogs in wood:
I won’t sink to pointing out what dog spelled backwards is, but I’ll say this:
If Jesus showed up on my grilled cheese, I’d eat it anyway. If there was a dog visible in my wood paneling, on the other hand, I wouldn’t paint over it.
With the rise of social media, we’re seeing much more of this type of thing.
But it has always gone on — so much so that there are names for it.
Pareidolia is seeing (or hearing) something significant in a random image or sound. The word is derived from the Greek words para, meaning something faulty, and the noun eidōlon, meaning image, form or shape.
Sightings of spiritual or religious images in objects are called simulacra.
Those are the most famous, and the most often reported — the faces and or bodies of Jesus or the Virgin Mary having been perceived, by both believers and non-believers, in toast, frying pans, grilled cheese sandwiches, the facade of buildings, firewood, rocks, tortillas, cinnamon buns, pretzels and more.
By the way, that grilled cheese Virgin Mary, seen directly above (some people thought the image more closely resembled Bernadette Peters) went on to sell on eBay in 2004 for $28,000.
Jesus, too, has been seen in grilled cheese sandwiches, including this one — though when I look at it, I see a dog. (Then again, I’m the guy who spent countless hours during my year-long road trip with Ace, looking for the image of dogs in kudzu.)
It’s really nothing to be ashamed of, this spotting of things within other things. To the contrary, I think those who spot them, while they might not be blessed with eternal life, are blessed with an active imagination. They are able to look at clouds and see something else entirely.
Leonardo da Vinci wrote about pareidolia, saying this: “If you look at any walls spotted with various stains or with a mixture of different kinds of stones, if you are about to invent some scene you will be able to see in it a resemblance to various different landscapes adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, wide valleys, and various groups of hills.”
Georgia O’Keefe used it in her paintings of flowers, embedding hidden images that more often than not left us feeling guilty for having dirty minds.
Psychologists used it with their Rorschach tests, which had us interpret random inkblots that more often than not left us feeling guilty for having dirty minds.
Then again, we tend to see in random objects the things we long for, the things that make us happy.
There are exceptions to that as well. Some hated and feared faces have been spotted in objects over the years — with Satan being the most common.
But far more often we see something that soothes us, like dogs, something that gives us hope, like dogs, something that makes us smile, like dogs.
So, if you’re seeing things within things, don’t rush to a shrink. Don’t join a pareidolia support group. Instead, celebrate and savor your pareidolia — whether it be through pieces of wood, your morning toast or with those fluffy white clouds dancing like … you name it … across a deep blue sky.
(Photos: Twitter, Wikipedia, Imgur)
Posted by John Woestendiek February 14th, 2017 under Muttsblog.
Tags: cheetos, chicken nuggets, clouds, dog, dog in wood, dogs, grilled cheese, image, imagination, inanimate, jesus, kudzu dogs, objects, pareidolia, photo, photograph, piece of wood, potato chips, psychology, random, rorschach, see, sightings, simulacra, social media, tests, toast, twitter, virgin mary
My outlaw art exhibit, a scheme dreamed up in a bar two months ago, came to its last-minute but highly successful fruition, in that same bar, last night.
Here’s the story. Two guys own a bar on Fort Avenue in Baltimore. Long ago it was called the End Zone. When they bought it five or so years ago, they reopened it as the Idle Hour, a more upscale — but not annoyingly so — establishment. I passed by it everyday on my way to the park, and the owners became friends with my dog Ace. I became a semi-regular customer.
As a semi-regular customer, I, like a lot of other customers, noticed that a man often appeared in a window across the street — staring out, often for long periods of time, from his second-floor room above what was until recently a hardware store.
While nobody knew much about the man — commonly referred to as The Window Guy — he became, among customers, an instant legend, and a source of intrigue. His frequent appearances at his window led customers, who could see him through the Idle Hour’s front window, to start speculating — both on what he was up to and what his story was.
Often, he’d appear in his T-shirt or no shirt at all. While a lot of upscale establishments might be mortified and embarassed by such a spectacle, in full view of their customers, the owners of the tavern, though part of the gentrification that has and continues to take place in the neighborhood, took it in stride. As they’d shown by giving the bar, which had been through several incarnations, its original name back, they’re they types that have some appreciation for the neighborhood’s history, for its traditions, and for the curious mix of textures — from polyester to silk, from knit Izod to “wifebeater” T — that is south Baltimore
They also have an appreciation for art, and every month or so they feature the work of a new artist on their nail-hole riddled, wood-paneled walls.
How cool would it be, I thought to myself, and then shared with a select few others, to sneak in an exhibit, without the owners’ knowledge, in which every picture on every wall was one of The Window Guy?
For the next couple of months, I took my camera with me, and surreptitiously photographed the Window Guy when he was at his window, and out on the street. Conspiring with the bartending staff, I learned there would be a lull between exhibits — Lindsay Petrick was taking her work down, and agreed to do so a couple of days early, leaving a small window of opportunity until Jes Contro puts her art up.
On Friday, while the owners were out, I put up more than 30 framed photographs of The Window Guy, managing to get them up in an hour thanks to help from some friends — particularly the Baltimore Sun’s Sam Sessa , who I’d invited to see the exhibit but instead ended up hanging much of it, and Beau Seidel, who earlier Friday helped build the set for Bruce Springsteen’s concert.
As a practical joke, it went off without a hitch. Both owners walked in to see the previously bare walls covered with Window Guy art. While I was a little worried about how they might react to the unauthorized exhibit, both seemed to get a good laugh out of it. More surprisingly yet, it was a major hit, with about a third of the photos being sold on opening night — almost enough to recoup my investment.
One person even called it “very post modern,” which, since I’m not sure what that is, I will take as a compliment.
The exhibit is entitled “John: The Man in the Window.” Other than knowing his first name, I intentionally didn’t research John’s background, or talk to him, because the exhibit was more about mystery, speculations and assumptions than about the reality. But I’m thinking the reality — learning about the man behind the enigma — might make for a good sequel.
Though I intended it as a one-night-only exhibit, the owners decided they will keep it up for a few more days — so feel free to drop by and see it. Chances are, while looking at the photos of The Window Guy, you’ll see the actual Window Guy as well, who, at this point, isn’t aware that there is an exhibit hanging in tribute to him across the street.
The Idle Hour is located at 201 E. Fort Ave.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 21st, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: art, baltimore, bar, beau seidel, bruce springsteen, exhibit, fort avenue, guerrilla, idle hour, imagination, jes contro, john, john woestendiek, lindsay petrick, mystery, photography, photos, sam sessa, south baltimore, speculation, the man in the window, unauthorized, window, window guy