Consideration of Visual Neurobiology, Art, and Pedagogy: Changing Views

By Cynthia Bickley-Green.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The aim of this presentation is to speculate about how contemporary findings in visual neurobiology might change our pedagogy of visual. One might understand a mode of representation as the activity of an artist attending to a particular neurobiological system and the creation an image that stimulates in the brain of the viewer a similar neurobiological experience. For example, a painter such as Claude Monet was attending to the neurobiological What system when he painted a Grainstack in the Morning, Snow Effect (1891) in which the painted colors replicate the experience of color opponency and the Where system when he painted Ice Floes (1892-93). In Ice Floes, the colors are desaturated and the Where system is engaged to identify the objects (Livingstone, 2002). Would neurobiological descriptions of visual image making change understanding visual art from the more distant past? Could one speculate that Cennino Cennini's written description of how to paint "cangiante" colors of robes be based on his attention to the effects of the What system and Alberti's descriptions of how to create tints and shades and the structure of linear perspective be based on his attention to the Where system? While such speculation may seem obtuse, the exercise can lead to discussions about the contribution of the body to visual expression or a new understanding of the brain/mind. Or, a conversation might develop about the connectedness of our bodies to the environment. The light waves that reflected from the Monet's grainstacks and ice floes stimulated certain parts of Monet's brain to create images that eventually stimulate similar physical areas of contemporary viewer's brain. This neurobiology of art might be likened to a butterfly effect in the art world or photons creating another history of art.

Keywords: Visual Art, Neuroesthetics, Design, Neurobiology, Pedagogy

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 7, pp.73-80. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 639.151KB).

Dr. Cynthia Bickley-Green

Coordinator Art Education, Director Distance Education, School of Art and Design, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA

Cynthia Bickley-Green holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Art from the University of Georgia in the area of art education. Her dissertation entitled Afterimage in Painting explored the presence of afterimages in representational and abstract art. She has received grants to study color from the Nation Endowment for the Humanities, to edit an interdisciplinary book from The North Carolina Arts Council, and to research relations between art and math from the Eisenhower 1997-98 program in mathematics and science. She has written 114 art reviews and articles, and exhibited her artwork in more than 80 international, national, and regional shows. Currently, she is the Coordinator of Art Education at East Carolina University. Her paintings explore aftereffects in representational and abstract imagery.

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