Photo by Sam Moore
Marcia Smilack, A Reflectionist

To understand the art of Marcia Smilack, it helps to know that she is synesthetic – that is, she sees sounds, hears colors, and feels on her skin the textures she sees.

This unique artist/photographer, who calls herself a “Reflectionist,” uses her synesthesia to tell her when to snap the shutter as soon as she sees, hears, and feels sounds and textures in reflections on water. She thinks of the wind as the paintbrush, the surface of the water her canvas, and her camera the instrument by which she records her observations. She never manipulates a picture after taking it. The list of titles she wrote for her pictures reads like poetry.

But it isn’t necessary to know any of this to appreciate the breathtaking beauty and inventiveness of her astoundingly painterly photos. They speak for themselves.


For more, continue to read Greta Berman’s “Synesthesia: The Involuntary Joining of the Senses.”


Cello Music



Singing Arches



Man Leaning






Coterie of Circles



Scattered Halos



Muses and Halos



Bending Water



The Wonder of White



Bells of Kiev



The Bluest Eye from Bells of Kiev



Lavender Plus Gold Equals Bells from Bells of Kiev



Vibraphone Music



Pool Chairs




Marcia Smilack grew up in Bexley, Ohio and attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison as an undergraduate. She received a Ph.D. in English from Brown University. She taught literature and writing in various colleges, including Brown, but the job market was difficult at that time. In 1988, she moved to Martha’s Vineyard, switched to writing full time, developed writer’s block and, having acquired her first camera, began to photograph harbor scenes. She shot red buoys when she heard the sound of a Siren – in other words, she was using her synesthesia (or as she says, “I shoot a picture when a hear a chord of color, which, for me, is not a metaphor, but the way I perceive the world"). Her first exhibition was held in 1993. Since that time, she has had many solo exhibitions, written many articles and become a professional speaker on her art. She explains, “while it appears that I am photographing the landscapes around me, the truth is, I am photographing my emotions.”

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13 thoughts on “Marcia Smilack, A Reflectionist

  1. marcia smilack

    I didn’t sufficiently thank Sue Leonard, editor and for me the one who quickly pulled all the pieces together, pleasant and easy to work with (as were they all) to produce such a lovely final product so I wish to thank her now. I was lucky to be interviewed by musician Gena Raps, who interviewed me and wrote the perfect intro, and Art Historian and Professor at Julliard, Greta Berman, who explained synesthesia better than anyone I know.

  2. Byron

    Congratulations Marcia! I do so love your work. As a fellow Bexley High School graduating classmate & a fellow artist & photographer, I so appreciate Marcia’s unique eye & perspective of our beautiful world. Hope to see more of your work. Visiting Columbus soon, hope to see some more of your gems in the galleries…. Love you, Marcia! Peace & Blessings, Byron Yaple

    1. marcia smilack

      Thank you for your wise questions and encouragement. I love the you appreciate the titles as well as the images and you’re right, it does feel like poetry to me. You were so important in putting this article together, I cannot thank you enough.
      Marcia Smilack

    2. Marcia Smilack

      To Gena Raps, Thanks for making the article possible, asking discerning questions and being an intelligent interviewer with a good ear! Only you would hear the poetry at the same time you were looking at the images (I believe), given your musical gifts.
      I’m thrilled with how the piece turned out.

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