The International Museum of Surgical Science Presents:

Liminal by Rosśa Crean

August 5 – September 18, 2022

Opening Reception: August 5, 2022, 6:00PM – 8:00PM Free

The Fire Orchids Descent to Civilization; 16×20; acrylic and water on canvas.

Synesthesia is a perceptual phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. In other words, the brain of a synesthete translates one sense into another. Rosśa Crean has what is called chromesthesia (they label it trifold chromesthesia), where their brain translates sound into color and visual patterns, followed by a secondary emotional response. As a composer, their chromesthesia has been a useful tool in their musical projects. Yet chromesthesia could also be overwhelming from overstimulation due to external stimulus.

Crean connected their musical career as a trained classical composer with the visual art of painting several years ago in their mid-career. Crean was prompted by fellow academics in music who contemplated the possibility of showing an audience what a synesthete sees when they hear certain pieces of music. Crean was already a practicing visual artist and began to portray these translations in painting.

Rosśa Crean refers to their work as “liminal abstracts,” conducted in a transitory space between physical stimulus and emotional response. Through two series of paintings, visitors will experience Crean’s large-scale abstract works accompanied by sound compositions. The artist takes you through two time periods in their life – the first through their initial exploration of visually representing synesthesia; and the second, through works they created during the pandemic, and the artist’s response to working through trauma, grief, anxiety disorder, and panic attacks. Crean invites the viewer to experience the works and see what they see—color, movement, and artistic expression as a result of music and sound—the artist’s personal music and art therapy.

Rosśa Crean is a Multimedia artist Rosśa Crean specializes in what they call “liminal abstract” works and “esoteric illustrations.” Crean has chromesthesia, a type of synesthesia where the brain translates sound into colors. They consider their chromesthesia to be a tool that puts them in a liminal space between mind and body. Through their design company Shadow Play Art & Design, their work has been part of art installations throughout the country, and most recently became the focus of their chapbook entitled “Werifesteria: Poetry and Art by Rosśa Crean.” Crean has done development work with MoMA and has been a resident artist at Lakeside Inn in Lakeside, MI, Illinois State University, and Loyola University Museum of Art.

Rosśa Crean

Read more about Rosśa Crean’s work at

About the Contemporary Arts Program: The International Museum of Surgical Science supports a commitment to contemporary art and artists through exhibitions and programs that use the frame of contemporary artistic practice to examine new perspectives in medical-surgical science and our relationship to the body. The Museum’s Contemporary Arts Initiative includes rotating exhibitions of contemporary art, as well as an ongoing Artist in Residence program.

The International Museum of Surgical Science acknowledges support from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.