Are you drawn to Impressionism? Or more toward 3D computer art? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Or is it? Contrary to the old adage, there may be universal biological principles that drive art’s appeal, and its capacity to engage our brains and our interest. Through artworks ranging from post-modernism to political caricature to 3D film, Margaret S. Livingstone and Patrick Cavanagh join cartoonist Jules Feiffer and others in an examination of newly understood principles of visual perception.

Lawrence Weschler / Writer

Lawrence Weschler was for over 20 years a staff writer at The New Yorker, where his work shuttled between political tragedies and cultural comedies. He is a two-time winner of the George Polk Award, for Cultural Reporting in 1988 and Magazine Reporting in 1992, and was also a recipient of the Lannan Literary Award. Among his many books are Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder (1995), which was shortlisted for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Everything that Rises: A Book of Convergences, which received the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism.

He is currently director of the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University, where he has been a fellow since 1991, and from which base he is trying to start his own semiannual journal of writing and visual culture, Omnivore. He is also a distinguished writer in residence at NYU’s Carter Journalism Institute. He concurrently holds the position of artistic director of the Chicago Humanities Festival.

Weschler is a contributing editor to McSweeney’s, the Threepeeny Review, and The Virginia Quarterly Review; curator at large of the DVD quarterly Wholphin; (recently retired) chair of the Sundance (formerly Soros) Documentary Film Fund; and director of the Ernst Toch Society, dedicated to the promulgation of the music of his grandfather, the noted Weimar emigre composer.

Patrick Cavanagh / Cognitive Psychologist

Patrick Cavanagh helped change vision research by creating the Vision Sciences Lab at Harvard and the Centre of Attention & Vision in Paris. He is currently researching the problems of attention as a frequent component of mental illnesses, learning difficulties at school, and workplace accidents.

A research Professor of Psychology at Harvard University Dr. Cavanagh’s work on visual attention and its tracking functions has created new directions in this field. In motion research, his distinction between first order and second order motion became a fundamental distinction in the field of perception.

Widely published, Dr. Cavanagh is a member of the editorial board of five journals, and was elected as Fellow of the Society of Experimental Psychologists for his contributions to the community of visual and cognitive research.

Margaret S. Livingstone / Neurobiologist, Author

Margaret S. Livingstone is best known for her work on visual processing, which has led to a deeper understanding of how we see color, motion, and depth, and how these processes are involved in generating percepts of objects as distinct from their background.

Dr. Livingstone is a professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. Her book, Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing, illustrates insights in the world of visual art, including an explanation for the elusive quality of the Mona Lisa’s smile (it is more visible to peripheral vision than to central vision) and that Rembrandt, like many artists, may have been stereoblind.

In collaboration with Albert Galaburda’s laboratory, Dr. Livingston’s research on the differences in visual processing in subjects with dyslexia has had a broad impact in the learning-disability field.

Christopher W. Tyler / Neuroscientist, Art Analyst

Christopher Tyler has spent his research career exploring how the eyes and brain work together to produce meaningful vision. Dr. Tyler, director of The Smith Kettlewell Brain Imaging Center, has developed rapid tests for the diagnosis of diseases of this visual processing in infants and of retinal and optic nerve diseases in adults. He has also studied visual processing and photoreceptor dynamics in other species such as monkeys, butterflies and fish.

One of Dr. Tyler’s main interests has been how the brain organizes the 2D information provided by the two eyes into a full understanding of the three-dimensional world in which we move and operate. In the process, he developed the concept for the 'Magic Eye' images for showing 3D scenes in a single image without special glasses, which became very popular in the 1990s.

Buzz Hays / 3D Pioneer

Buzz Hays is one of the pioneers in the field of 3D production, who in recent years was responsible for overseeing the adaptation of standard-release feature films into three-dimensional stereoscopic versions for the IMAX 3D and Real D platforms. Hays’ work included adapting Robert Zemeckis’ Beowulf. Other projects for Sony Pictures Imageworks included the Imagemotion performance-capture animated film Monster House and the first CG feature from Sony Pictures Animation, Open Season.

As Senior Vice President, Sony 3D Technology Center, Sony Corporation of America, Hays is the Chief Instructor for the Center, dedicated to the creation of good 3D across movies, television, games and other platforms. He is responsible for all curriculum development, instruction and training for a broad range of people across the entertainment industry.

In 1993, Hays co-produced the independent film, Swimming With Sharks. While at Lucasfilm THX, he was responsible for all research and development efforts including the THX Sound System and Home THX. He also oversaw the design, construction and installation of over 600 movie theaters and film dubbing stages worldwide.

Jules Feiffer / Cartoonist, Playwright, Author

Cartoonist, playwright, screenwriter and children’s book author & illustrator Jules Feiffer has had a remarkable creative career turning contemporary urban anxiety into witty and revealing commentary for over fifty years. From his Village Voice editorial cartoons to his plays and screenplays, including Little Murders and Carnal Knowledge, Feiffer’s satirical outlook has helped define us politically, sexually and socially.

He won a Pulitzer Prize and a George Polk Award for his cartoons; an Obie for his plays; an Academy Award for the animation of his cartoon satire, Munro; and Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Writers Guild of America and the National Cartoonist Society. The first cartoonist commissioned by The New York Times to create comic strips for their Op-Ed page, Feiffer has since shifted his focus towards writing and illustrating books for children and young adults including The Man in the Ceiling, A Room with a Zoo, and Bark, George!

Feiffer has taught at the Yale School of Drama, Northwestern University, Dartmouth, and presently at Stony Brook Southampton College. He has been honored with major retrospectives at the New York Historical Society, the Library of Congress and The School of Visual Arts. His memoir, Backing into Forward, relates how persistent failure inspired him to reinvent himself as an artist over and over.