BRONZEVILLE — Remember the blue-and-black dress that sparked rage-filled arguments on social media because some people — you know who you are — insisted the dress was actually white-and-gold?
Well, a doctoral student at the Illinois College of Optometry inspired by the optical illusion that caused so much controversy online has teamed up with her artistic twin sister to craft a "reverspective painting" that shows an entirely different way our eyes can play tricks on us.
It might be an exaggeration to say it’ll blow your mind.
But when I first saw it on display at the college — mesmerized by how the painting came alive with my every move — I was lucky to snap myself out of a momentary trance-like state that I found myself in just steps before taking a tumble down the stairs became a reality.
Sepideh Omidghaemi and fellow student Chido Munjangaja spent more than a year researching the yet-untitled work of art — a Patrick Hughes-inspired painting in "reverse perspective" that creates an optical illusion akin to a mild acid trip.
Unlike the blue-and-black dress, everyone sees this optical illusion created by the painting exactly the same way, said professor Susan Kelly, an adviser on the project.
Omidghaemi's twin sister and chief collaborator — Los Angeles-based artist Saeideh Omidghaemi, who took a “crash course” in optical illusion while pitching in on the project — put it this way:
“Even if you develop a third eye, you should be able to see it.”
Without getting too technical, images of the college hallways, library and exam rooms painted on truncated pyramids create a reverse motion parallax — which means objects closer to you appear to move faster than objects that are further away.
And it can catch people by surprise when they see it for the first time.
“When you move, the painting moves with you … and you have to stop and go back and then they see the movement,” Omidghaemi said.
“Your mind is shooting [the image] back. It’s constantly fighting with you. It sees something and says, ‘No, no, we have learned that if things that appear in the distance are coming at me … that’s not how it’s supposed to be, so it shoots it back and that’s how you get the [perception] of motion.”
Growing up with an identical twin sister, Omidghaemi said she learned a thing or two about how things — and people — aren’t exactly how they seem.
People have always commented on how they’re “exactly the same” without noticing the tiny details that define them as individuals.
When I talked to them earlier this week, Sepideh kindly wore a black dress while Saeideh wore a white dress, which was a great help when they explained — in rapid-fire banter — how they’re mirror images, rather than carbon copies, of each other.
Saeideh is the shorter, right-handed artistic, perfectionist type.
Sepideh is the fiercely independent left-handed scientist who — as her sister likes to point out — doesn’t always paint the straightest lines.
“When you’re a twin you’re always criticizing yourself and comparing yourself,” Saeideh said. “When I see what she paints I see her flaws. It’s the struggle of being a twin.”
After months of research the twins worked late hours in the studio for weeks at a time.
Sepideh, the doctorate student, worked from the left side of the painting, and Saeideh, the fine artist, worked from the right.
“When we got to the middle we were bumping elbows,” Saeideh said.
“And we weren’t happy about that,” Sepideh said.
But after putting the finishing touches on the project this weekend, the sisters’ shared pride was no illusion.
“This was a crazy adventure and a chance to do something great and help as much as I could,” said Saeideh, who will watch her sister graduate this weekend. “I felt like whatever she was going through I was going through … and I got to be part of her success.”
And for the future optometrist, collaborating with her sister gave her the chance to explore her creative side while studying the science behind how people see the world.
“This was the combining of art and science together that we hope is an inspiration for other schools and programs,” Sepideh said.
“So many people see the world differently. Artist can express it one way and scientists can explain it another way. And when you create a piece like this it helps expand our understanding more.”
And, if you’re not careful, it’s just the thing could send you tumbling down the stairs.
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