Gina Thomas McGee, the museum’s associate educator who organized the exhibition, is a self-described pareidoliac. “I see faces everywhere,” she tells me over the phone. For her, the impulse began after encountering the work of artistic duo Jean and Francois Robert, who documented objects that resemble faces in three charming books: Face to Face (1996), Faces (2000), and Find a Face (2004).
The latter is geared toward children. On one page, a glossy photo of an inverted wrench brings to mind a head with big ears, a substantial nose, and beady eyes. Another shows a black leather briefcase whose zippers look like two closed eyes and an open mouth mid-yawn. McGee used the book as a tool for museum education—“to encourage kids to look at images in new ways, to be open to being surprised,” she says. Whether or not it stuck with her students, it certainly has with her.
It wasn’t long before McGee was seeing eyes, ears, and lips beyond the pages of the book—and all over the museum’s collection. She began planning the exhibition soon after.
black-and-white photograph Car in Winter, 7th Ave
(1956) is among the works on view in the small show. It’s the first piece that McGee found in the museum’s database when she began her hunt for pareidolic artworks. It shows a close crop of a snow-covered car. Typical of 1950s models, it boasts an ornately detailed hood: a metal circle close to the bumper suggests a mouth; a long, elegant embellishment that extends from the windshield across the hood is a nose; and two windshield wipers, cocked at an angle, are the eyes.