19 November 2011

Unexpected conversations in the medical library

I had heard about a new exhibit in the medical library. It's based upon the collection of a famous American neurosurgeon who lived around the turn of the 20th century. I visited at the spur of the moment, since I had just finished a workshop in the same building. There were hundreds of jars containing brains and brain tumors, even a technical document by the architectural firm that designed the exhibit. When I was about to leave the exhibit, a woman approached me and asked me if she could answer questions about the exhibit. She had been giving a tour while I was looking around.

Looking back, it was a serendipitous conversation. I didn't expect to run into an artist who was working on the exhibit and who taught photography at the art school I had attended (she doesn't teach there anymore). She was an exceptional conversationalist. She was receptive, open-minded, and kept the focus of the conversation on me for the first ten minutes. Can you think of anyone who does that? I can't.

I asked her why put so much effort into this exhibit. She said that a lot of medical collections like this have been thrown away. So it's important to preserve this particular collection.

I also asked her a lot of questions about photography. She told me that if you are a good wet lab printer, you'll be a good digital printer. The terminology is the same. She showed me some prints she made for the exhibit and I couldn't tell the difference from the silver nitrate prints (the gold standard for film). The quality is that good.

She made some interesting remarks about art education. I told her about how frustrated I felt when learning how to draw. I always felt like my work wasn't very good. She said that her friends in art education find that even children are expressing the same "I'm-not-good-enough" attitude by fifth grade. She also mentioned that today's children are constantly presented with processed 2D images on a screen, to the point that they don't know how to think spatially before. Drawing is the process of observing a 3D scene, interpreting it, and rendering it on a 2D surface. This makes me think that more kids should learn drawing.

We spent a long time talking and I'm grateful that she took the time to enlighten me.

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