Friday, February 5, 2010

Walters Museum features art of the messiah and the mind

If you're feeling particularly artsy this weekend, the Walters Art Museum is the place to be. While two of its current exhibits, "Beauty and the Brain: A Neural Approach to Aesthetics" and "The Christmas Story: Picturing the Birth of Christ in Medieval Manuscripts," don't have much common, they are certainly worth seeing nonetheless.

"Beauty and the Brain" is all at once an exhibit and experiment, its inspiration based on the connections between art and neuroscience.

In the information presented prior to entering the exhibit, the creators of the exhibit explain that this connection - while several centuries old - has only been recently explored, due to the new discoveries in research on the brain.

Aesthetics has been a hotly contested topic in the world of philosophy since the ancient Greeks. More recently it has entered into the study of psychology. Many of the most famous thinkers in human history have attempted to answer the same questions that this exhibit addresses.

However, with new advances in technology - both in the art world and in neuroscience - we can attempt to find scientifically-based answers to the age-old debate: what is beauty and where do we find it?

In order to test this hypothesis, the exhibit asks its viewers to observe a series of sculptures by the French artist Jean Arp and to record their impressions.

The viewers or test subjects put on plastic 3-D glasses to look at eight panels, each containing about 20 or so variations on one sculpture.

Moving to the opposite end of the spectrum, the second exhibit, "The Christmas Story: Picturing the Birth of Christ in Medieval Manuscripts," is a sharp contrast to the modern technology employed in the aforementioned exhibit.

Although the featured manuscripts, discussing events surrounding Christ's birth, would certainly interest those familiar with Latin, the exhibit lacks some style and flair.

However, the coloration of some of the illustrations is beautifully done and the variety in the depiction of the Three Kings, the shepherds and other such characters is interesting.

Both of these exhibits continue on through the end of February.

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