People Are Creating Endless “Inception” Paintings of Other People Holding Paintings

Earlier this month, a Redditor shared a sweet and seemingly inconsequential photograph. It showed his mother, Cindi Decker, holding a colorful portrait of an egret. “My mom painted this and said no one would like it,” Gaddafo said. “It's her 2nd painting.” While one would expect the comment section to be full of encouraging comments or helpful critiques, it quickly took on a life of its own and spiraled into something entirely unexpected.

Prompted by another user's comical idea, artist Kristoffer Zetterstrand posted a photo of himself holding a painting of the woman holding her painting. (Are you still following?) Then, user lillyofthenight followed suit, sharing a picture of herself holding a painting of the man holding a painting of the woman holding a painting. The trend continued, culminating in an astounding chain reaction that has come to be known as “paintception.”

This Reddit-based phenomenon then spread to Twitter, where it has continued to gain traction. “Something incredible is happening on reddit,” author Nick Kapur shared. “I'm tempted to say these people have way too much time, but this is legit amazing.”

He then compiled the photographs into a streamlined Twitter thread, allowing audiences to watch the mind-blowing situation unfold before their eyes. He's even included an interactive chart that allows you to explore how the ever-expanding “paintception” has unfolded.

So, what does Decker think of the situation? “You know, I'm not a painter,” she told As It Happens. “I'm just somebody who went out and did a little painting thing, so I got lucky to get caught up in all this fun craziness.”

In addition to Internet fame, it seems she's made some friends along the way—Zetterstrand, the artist who started the chain, has even promised to send her the trend-setting portrait.

See how “paintception,” a mind-blowing series of seemingly infinite paintings, unfolded.

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Kelly Richman-Abdou

Kelly Richman-Abdou is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. An art historian living in Paris, Kelly was born and raised in San Francisco and holds a BA in Art History from the University of San Francisco and an MA in Art and Museum Studies from Georgetown University. When she’s not writing, you can find Kelly wandering around Paris, whether she’s leading a tour (as a guide, she has been interviewed by BBC World News America and France 24) or simply taking a stroll with her husband and two tiny daughters.
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