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A Simple Demonstration PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

picture1A friend of the JREF recently sent me two pictures, one of which is displayed to the right. At first I thought this must be a photo from a Japanese garden, where tastes in sculpture have been known to be a little bit different from what I see in Vermont, USA.

Sculpture is a representation, ranging from extremely lifelike to extremely abstract. Like all art, abstract art conveys meaning, sometimes more meaning, because we are pattern seeking creatures. The patterns we see come from our brains, and this tells us something of our experiences and our upbringing. In the abstract example above, I see a mother hawk feeding her chicks. It might be fun to post what you see in the comments below.

Now move your mouse over the photo in this article, and click Read More. Now that you've seen the front (linked again in case the mouse over didn't work for some of you) of the very same sculpture, what have you learned about yourself? Maybe you didn't see a shape in the first picture... or maybe you saw something quite familiar. Maybe you were shocked, amused, confused or disgusted. I'll bet the second photograph changed your opinion somewhat.

As pattern seeking creatures, we often see patterns where there actually are none. The most common example of this is looking for shapes in clouds. We're particularly good at seeing faces, as faces are so important to our social existence. Many people see a "man in the moon," though I confess to seeing a lunar rabbit more often (I read Watership Down at a young age.) And because of this, we literally can't trust what we see. As skeptics, we know to look beyond our immediate perception before settling on a definitive conclusion (if we ever reach one).

The sculpture in the photo is actually in a churchyard in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. And while the original photo is not what it seems, neither is the churchyard. There is a tower with bells, and the inscription thereupon reads:

St. Joseph's Bells

The large bell is named

MENDEL

its inscription reads

I WILL TEACH YOU OF LIFE

AND OF LIFE ETERNAL

The smaller bell is named

PASTEUR

its inscription reads

THANKS BE TO GOD

1929

While many of us may not agree completely with the sentiment, it's good to see the names of scientists gracing a churchyard. I would like to make a suggestion though – a plaque could be attached to the statue that read:

This Virgin Mary

is named

FREUD

for sometimes a cigar

is just

the back of a statue

I don't think he'd mind at all.


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written by Sulidae, April 26, 2009
In that same line, you might find the following video amusing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnQvN0SV6YM
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From the website.
written by BillyJoe, April 27, 2009


What ever that sculpture is (cigar...yeah right!), it sure is a powerful symbol holding back as it does all that water via the agency of that fence.

BJ
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written by Rustylizard, April 27, 2009
How interesting; it brings back a very old memory:

Back in the early 1950s, when I was a boy, I visited a construction site with my father. This crude guy hops off of a backhoe, comes over to us, unzips his pants, whips out a lunker, and starts piddling on my father’s shoe.

Dad jumped back, shocked to the core and angry. He was not a small man. Before my father could smack him, the guy pushes this statue of the Virgin Mary under his nose. It was hollow, made of rubber and filled with water—a sort of squirt gun—the Virgin Mary on one side, a penis on the other. It was a variation of old “Freud,” to be sure, and purchased from some novelty shop.

As you pointed out, Jeff, “… art conveys meaning, sometimes more meaning.” You’ve got to wonder—is that penis supposed to symbolize the instrument used by the holy ghost? If so, perhaps I should capitalize the word “Penis.”
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written by Silver, April 27, 2009
Rustlizard said: "You’ve got to wonder—is that penis supposed to symbolize the instrument used by the holy ghost? If so, perhaps I should capitalize the word “Penis.”

Since the holy ghost is suppose to be part of a three for one package called the trinity that would make his trist with Mary sort of a menage a four.
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Pattern Seeking
written by JasonPatterson, April 27, 2009
This is a great example of pattern seeking. It's too bad the idea would be lost on all the folks who see the virgin Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich.
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written by Bruno, April 27, 2009
It's too bad the idea would be lost on all the folks who see the virgin Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich.

Perhaps not if they turned it over to see what's on the other side.
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written by Stanfr, April 27, 2009
The abstract example Jeff linked looks like the Swine Flu Virus to me. The sculptor clearly was psychic! smilies/cool.gif
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written by knitwit, April 27, 2009
I really enjoyed the video referred by Comment #1. Great fun and thanks for the link.

These things are also called optical illusions I think although perhaps they are not so in the strictest sense.
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Mendel and Catholics
written by novacthall, April 27, 2009
For university, I went to a Catholic institution, Villanova, which is located just outside of Philadelphia, PA. While I myself am not Catholic (they never really held that against me, bless their hearts), I grew to admire the Augustinians for their comparatively grounded world view. Gregor Mendel, widely regarded as the "father of genetics", was in fact a monk of the order. Indeed, many of the monks who taught at the school were themselves scientists. On campus, the biology building is named Mendel Hall, and outside is a large statue of the man, holding several open pea pods. The heritage of science runs deep in this place, perhaps the most unexpected of all places -- at least to me.

Growing up, I never found any compelling reasons science and religion could not coexist in some capacity. The Augustinians seem to have a track record of agreeing with this sentiment, which I found refreshing.
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written by BillyJoe, April 27, 2009
These things are also called optical illusions I think although perhaps they are not so in the strictest sense.

In fact, they are not optical illusions at all.
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written by Alan3354, April 27, 2009
For a penis, it has a large aspect ratio - either very fat or very short.
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written by Skemono, April 27, 2009
Now that you've seen the front (linked again in case the mouse over didn't work for some of you) of the very same sculpture, what have you learned about yourself?

That I read too much fantasy? When I looked at the picture, I actually did think of a head as viewed from behind. But I thought of a knight with a chain-mail coif.
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written by nelson650, April 27, 2009
Like all puzzle and illusion books, the lines are the same length, none of the cicles touch, the squares are not moving...etc., so I automatically knew the statue would be anything other than a phallic symbol. Is there a term for that, too? smilies/wink.gif
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written by BillyJoe, April 27, 2009
When I looked at the picture, I actually did think of a head as viewed from behind. But I thought of a knight with a chain-mail coif.

Only a dickhead would have seen something like that! smilies/cheesy.gif
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written by CasaRojo, April 28, 2009
I thinks it's Friar Tuck from the back OR Friar $#ck from another direction.
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written by Skemono, April 28, 2009
Like all puzzle and illusion books, the lines are the same length, none of the cicles touch, the squares are not moving...etc., so I automatically knew the statue would be anything other than a phallic symbol. Is there a term for that, too?

I believe it's called "experience".
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It's a cock
written by superfreddy, May 01, 2009
There! I said it.
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A cock?
written by BillyJoe, May 02, 2009
But it doesn't even have wattles!
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written by Steel Rat, May 09, 2009
Now that you've seen the front (linked again in case the mouse over didn't work for some of you) of the very same sculpture, what have you learned about yourself?


Learned nothing about myself, but did learn that selective cropping of an image from a certain angle can give the viewer a (purposefully) false impression of the subject. Come on. A valid comparison would have been to show the ENTIRE back of the statue, as one would see when standing behind it, not just the head.

Invalid premise...


As for the abstract, I see some curvy things that look similar to the Firefox symbol.
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written by BillyJoe, May 09, 2009
My wife on the other hand is obsessed I'm sure. I have only to say a word that even remotely sounds like dick, cock, or penis and she's like "what? WHAT?"

...and she quite liked the thickness of this one, but I said "what's the point if it keeps slipping out all the time?"
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written by Steel Rat, May 09, 2009
You mean like "Dank, cork, or pains"?
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