Color of Sound

Times of the Islands - - Departments - BY CRAIG GAR­RETT

For Hol­lis Jef­f­coat, her work is also about find­ing the right mu­sic. The Sanibel artist uses song and in­stru­men­tals to an­i­mate her imag­i­na­tion, open­ing the doors and win­dows of her mind to in­vent and shape her col­or­ful art­work. En­ter Kat Ep­ple, a cel­e­brated com­poser and mu­si­cian whose work in­cites Jef­f­coat, key­ing a neu­ro­log­i­cal process that changes song to col­ors, she says― synes­the­sia, in this case al­low­ing Jef­f­coat to vi­su­al­ize Ep­ple’s mu­sic, lit­er­ally trans­lat­ing au­dio to vis­ual.

The women have worked to­gether in "The Color of Sound, The Sound of Color," a Sanibel ex­hibit of Jef­f­coat’s work in­spired by Ep­ple’s hon­eyed flute. Ep­ple’s mu­sic “opens so many doors,” says Jef­f­coat, whose ab­stract ex­pres­sion­ist art­work is in the Metropoli­tan Mu­seum of Art, the Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art (Mon­treal), sev­eral pri­vate col­lec­tions and is fea­tured at the Wat­son MacRae Gallery on Sanibel where "The Color of Sound" ex­hib­ited ear­lier this year.

What works for Jef­f­coat, who has stud­ied in Paris and paints with her can­vas on the floor, doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily work in re­verse― Ep­ple is more in­spired by birds, wind and wa­ter, nat­u­ral sur­round­ings, she says. Her flute is ethe­real, as such, and has been rec­og­nized with Emmy suc­cess and Grammy nom­i­na­tions. Yet Ep­ple is pleased to be the cat­a­lyst for in­spir­ing oth­ers.

Jef­f­coat dis­cov­ered her pro­cliv­ity to synes­the­sia while study­ing in France some four decades back. At first re­lat­ing time with color, she ex­plains, then num­bers and certain smells, but mostly sounds and mu­sic, lay­er­ing paint in strik­ing greens, blues and reds, re­mov­ing or adding as the in­spi­ra­tion takes

hold, she says. One of her ab­stracts at Wat­son MacRae, for ex­am­ple, took months to com­plete, as the days merged and the mu­sic en­er­gized her cre­ativ­ity. Ul­ti­mately, it’s about the com­pleted work, not the process.

Ep­ple’s ca­reer in mu­sic, mean­while, stretches back to the 1970s. “It’s led to such an ex­cit­ing life, and all the lessons it’s taught me,” she says, adding that she once suf­fered from stage fright, but her flute now acts as prayer beads and helps her over­come such ob­sta­cles.

Her ca­reer in­cluded an ex­cit­ing time per­form­ing at open­ings for the famed artist Robert Rauschen­berg, and at evening ses­sions at his Cap­tiva home. She be­gan per­form­ing with Bob Stohl in 1972, she on flute, he on a hy­brid syn­the­sizer, pi­o­neer­ing the dreamy “Space Age” com­po­si­tions as­so­ci­ated with film sound­tracks. Fort My­ers artist and writer David Acevedo says of Ep­ple’s work: “Mu­sic and im­agery are a shared thread for the mu­si­cian, who tends to sur­pass the or­di­nary. Ep­ple has had an im­pact in­ter­na­tion­ally, whether per­form­ing in Rus­sia and China or com­pos­ing a score for a sur­round-sound an­i­mated film for the Hong Kong Sci­ence Mu­seum.”

Ep­ple to­day com­poses in her Fort My­ers stu­dio and per­forms world­wide. Ep­ple and Jef­f­coat plan to con­tinue in­spir­ing one another, both say.


Kat Ep­ple's mu­sic in­spires the artist Hol­lis Jef­f­coat.

Hol­lis Jef­f­coat dis­cov­ered that mu­sic trig­gers an in­ter­nal process of chang­ing sound to color. Her work is in mu­se­ums and pri­vate col­lec­tions.

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