Art: And You See When You Don't

Man, it turns out, sees op art even with his eyes shut. It comes in the form of scintillating, phantom-like geometries called phosphenes that dance inside the eyes like an attack of Technicolor vertigo in Times Square. Not afterimages, phosphenes are produced by the stimulation of the retina rather than by real light. Children toy with them by squeezing their eyes shut and observing what visions seem to swim against their closed eyelids. Adults, however, tend to reject them in favor of more materialistic daydreams. To see them, simply close the eyes for a minute or more, then press gently...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!