Looking is a very complex process—nearly as complex as seeing. It requires that we let go of what we know, so we can open ourselves to what we see. Or, as American artist Robert Irwin said, “Seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees.” Works of art are never merely mimetic representations, but rather entities in their own right. A visual language gives art its power regardless of whether or not we can name the thing we are looking at. Works of art always involve aspects of abstraction. To this extent, the notion of representation is false. What we actually see are merely marks of ink on paper, paint on a support, or the silver in paper.

Using selected works from the Museum’s permanent collection and Swem Library’s Special Collections Research Center, Looking out, at, in, and back again views the ways in which representation uses abstraction and abstraction uses representation. The exhibition serves as a laboratory for the class Neuroaesthetics: The Artist and the Mind taught by W. Taylor Reveley Interdisciplinary Faculty Fellows Jennifer Stevens of the Department of Psychological Sciences & the Neuroscience Program and Elizabeth Mead of the Department of Art & Art History.

This exhibition is curated by Elizabeth Mead with student contributions by Sunny Ahn, Feyza Ciger, Gwyn Evans, Ashley Green, Carter Helmandollar, Jemela Kanu, Harper Kolenbrander, Maggie McGinley, Sarah Morgan, Leah Moyer, Jillian Ragno, Zoe Rogers, Lindsay Stolting, Francisca Swisher-Gomez, and Margot Szamosszegi.


Image caption: JULIA MARGARET CAMERON | English, 1815 – 1879 | A Study of The Cenci, 1870 | Albumen print | Gift of Joseph C. French, Jr. | 2017.120