Face Recognition

I have been producing a series of small artworks for almost 25 years, it is my longest single lifetime art project. In random places everywhere I go, in oil paint, spray paint, crayon, chalk, or even a with a rock, I’ve inscribed this image.

dots

Perceptual psychologists can measure an emotional respose to viewing an image by measuring the amount of dilation of the pupils. One of the strongest emotional responses comes from viewing a face. While researching this effect, it was discovered that the eyes were the primary trigger for facial recognition, and even viewing of two dots will trigger the brain’s facial recognition system. The mind will engage with the task of trying to interpret the dots as eyes, and will exhibit the same emotional response as if viewing a real face.
Ever since I heard of this research, I’ve been placing dots in unusual places. Any two dots will do, I usually make them approximately life size, but that doesn’t matter, the effect is the same. I call it a subliminal artwork, it’s intended to give people a creepy feeling they’re being watched. I especially like to put them in places near the ceiling where nobody is likely to paint over them.
I noticed one of my neighbors, Bob Zoell, totally stole my idea and did a huge exhibit of “dot paintings” for the ACE Gallery in LA. He did the two dots, but about 40 feet tall on ugly turquoise backgrounds. There are a few other people who know of my dots project, so I want to make one thing perfectly clear: I have never collaborated with anyone nor have I ever incited anyone to draw two dots, not in any manner or medium.

Update, June 2014: More than a decade later, I felt I should explain that last sentence. It was a sly reference to Lucas Helder, the “Smiley Face Bomber.” Helder drove across Iowa planting pipe bombs in mailboxes, some of them were within a few miles of my home. I decided to make vague disclaimer that the two “eyes” he made on the map had nothing to do with me. Note that the map dates are incorrect, Helder was not arrested on May 18, he was arrested on May 7, two days before I wrote this post.

smiley-bomber

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