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Visual Art: Exhibit Explores The Science Behind The Beauty

August 27, 2012
David Tenenbaum djtenenb@wisc.edu 608-265-8549

MADISON - "About Seeing," an innovative exhibit focusing on the interaction between vision science and visual art, opens Aug. 31 at the James Watrous Gallery at the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison.

"This is equal parts science and art," says Watrous Gallery curator Martha Glowacki. "The Watrous Gallery is part of the Wisconsin Academy of Arts, Science and Letters, and as a curator and an artist, I am really interested in the intersection between science and art, how each can inform the other. This is a true collaboration, a true hybrid. We are using art to explain and enrich scientific ideas about vision and the connection between your mind and your eye."

Using artworks, demonstrations, and public programs, "the exhibit considers the physiology of color and depth perception, synesthesia, and the effects of vision loss," Glowacki says.

The McPherson Eye Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is a primary sponsor of the exhibit. Institute members, who are housed in many UW-Madison departments, "will share their perspective and expertise in various disciplines of vision-related knowledge," says Gail Stirr, McPherson's administrative director.

The exhibition will explore how three artists have responded to significant vision loss, using their visual art to document or work towards acceptance of these changes.

The color palette of realist paintings by Dan O'Neal, a painter from Stevens Point, changed drastically after he developed macular degeneration, says Glowacki. "His work shows in a compelling way how an artist was able to adapt to changing vision. He's still able to do this amazing realist work. He says he also gets ideas from the patterns of light that are common among people who have lost vision, as the brain compensates by trying to fill in the blank spots."

Barbara Blodi, an ophthalmologist with UW Health, will give a gallery talk with O'Neal that will discuss macular degeneration and how it has changed his painting.

In other talks, members of the McPherson institute "will use the exhibit as an education and outreach event showing the importance of vision, with information on how we see, what we see and why we see," says Stirr.

Visual communication specialist Shiela Reaves will talk about "Understanding the Art of Vision" at 2:30 p.m. during the opening reception, Sunday, Sept. 9. The reception will be open from 2-5 p.m.

"The exhibit doesn't fit any pigeonholes; this is a seamless blend," says Stirr. " It's about how science enriches our understand of seeing, and how art can enrich our knowledge of science."

The exhibition was made possible through the generous support of Dane Arts, Craft Optics, McPherson Eye Research Institute, Madison Arts Commission, and the Wisconsin Arts Board. The James Watrous Gallery also receives ongoing support from Doubletree Hotel and the membership of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters.

For more information, contact -
Martha Glowacki mglowacki@wisconsinacademy.org 608-265-2655

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