Schenectady

On Exhibit: MiSci’s ‘Seeing Ourselves’ brings much into focus

Left: The last meeting of Thomas Edison, seated, and Charles Steinmetz is shown in this painting in the miSci exhibit. Right: A No. 1 Kodak Autographic Special on display in miSci’s new exhibit “Seeing Ourselves: From Silhouette to Selfie.” (misci images)
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Left: The last meeting of Thomas Edison, seated, and Charles Steinmetz is shown in this painting in the miSci exhibit. Right: A No. 1 Kodak Autographic Special on display in miSci’s new exhibit “Seeing Ourselves: From Silhouette to Selfie.” (misci images)

Strange as it may sound, one just might gain a new appreciation for selfies after a visit to the Museum of Innovation & Science’s exhibit “Seeing Ourselves.”

It explores the history of how we’ve been able to bring images of one another into sharper focus over the years, from warbled reflections to paintings to photography to x-rays.

Today it seems difficult to get away from our image, mirrors are in our cars, in our restrooms, etc. and many of us have devices that capture our likeness in seconds if a mirror isn’t handy. However, according to the exhibit, throughout most of history, it wasn’t uncommon for people to not know what they looked like on a daily basis.

Toward the beginning of the exhibit is a wall of 20 painted portraits, capturing the likeness of the figures through the eyes and skills of an artist.

Among the paintings is a collection of miniature pieces by Irish-born artist George Place.

Another standout painting features the last meeting of Thomas Edison and Charles Steinmetz, both trailblazing scientists of the 19th and 20th centuries. The painting, created by the talented General Electric Company artist Harold M. Mott-Smith, shows the two titans working closely together.

Further along in the exhibit, there are some earlier models of cameras like the No. 1 Kodak Autographic Special, a silvery gadget produced in the 1920s. It was foldable and relatively compact, though nothing like today’s models. It used a roll of flexible film to produce images and the shutter speed and size of the aperture were controlled by posts framing the lens ring.

Nearby are models of the popular-again Polaroid cameras and an early version of an iPhone, They highlight just how recently capturing one’s image in a matter of seconds (or minutes as is the case with Polaroids) became ubiquitous.

Beside the cameras is a model of the first General Electric Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine, along with a few other clunky-looking early versions of portable x-ray machines and other pieces of imaging equipment.

Much of the exhibit is interactive, with a kaleidoscopic mirror feature and several funhouse mirrors. A heat-sensor mirror lights up in reds and oranges as one stands in front of it; changing shades as one readjusts their mask or coat.

Favorite interactive elements according to staff and visitors include “Capture Your Shadow” and “Face Mixer,” which uses a two-way mirror to mesh the faces of two people sitting on opposite sides of the feature. There are also a few green screens, which immerse visitors in a digital world. They can float up in a hot air balloon or be part of a turn of the century protest.

“Seeing Ourselves” is an entertaining interactive exhibit that might especially pique the interests of kids who haven’t lived in a world without selfies. It will be on view through April 24. For more information visit misci.org.

Categories: Art, Life and Arts

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