Lecture ties art with visual cognition

Alex Erb

In a lecture Tuesday night over the nature of art and visual cognition, associate professors Brent Holland and Eric Cooper discussed what it means to percieve something and translate it into artwork.

“Inquiry: Perception, History and Making” was held in the Brunnier Art Museum located on the second floor of the Scheman Building. Around 50 adults and students attended the lecture, many of whom were invited by Holland himself.

Cooper, an associate professor of psychology, covered the more scientific side of perception and cognition. He explained that perception occurs within the brain, not the eyes, and that more parts of the brain are devoted to vision than any other single human function.

He also noted that the human visual system is different than any other and offered dogs as an example, as they cannot see any color. He then went over several conditions that can impair vision, such as associative agnosia.

“There’s one associative agnosic I know about,” Cooper said, “where what they did was they took this postcard, and on this postcard was a very complicated drawing of a train. They gave him a piece of paper and pencil and asked him to draw it. It took him a long time, but he was able to do this, and every single detail was perfect. When they asked him what he drew, he said, ‘I dunno, whatever was on the page.'”

Holland, an associate professor of integrated studio arts and accomplished artist, aprroached things from an artistic perspective rather than scientific.

Much of Holland’s work is abstract or portraiture. He described his self-portraits as reflections of the baggage he has carried in his life and as explorations of his identity.

“I painted these in meticulous detail so that I could be fully in control of their symbolism,” Holland said of the shirts he wears in his self-portraits, explaining that each shirt was given to him by someone significant and that they all carried a particular weight in his life.

Taylor Traughber, sophomore in biological pre-medical illustration, was one of Holland’s students who was invited to the lecture. 

“I know Professor Holland as a teacher, and I came here to get to know him better personally,” Traugher said. “As a BPMI student, I’m already familiar with the science and the art sides, so it was really just to get to know more about these two and their work.”

This lecture was a part of an ongoing series at the Brunnier Art Museum entitled Relationships: Spheres of Influence. The next lecture, “We Aren’t So Different After All,” will be at 7 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Brunnier Museum.