This New York Times review describes an exhibition of the brain drawings of artist Santiago Ramon y Cajal at New York University’s Grey Gallery. The art critic Roberta Smith said about the show: “It’s not often that you look at an exhibition with the help of the very apparatus that is its subject. But so it is with “The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal” at the Grey Art Gallery at New York University, one of the most unusual, ravishing exhibitions of the season.” (The exhibition closes in New York at the end of March, and will open again in May at the MIT Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts.)
With its beautiful images and evocative subject matter, it took me back to my earliest days soon after I graduated from college (the University of California, Los Angeles). I believe it must have been around 1949. I had been hired as a part-time assistant to Professor Charles Bridgman, head of the UCLA Art Department’s Scientific Illustration group. Dr. Bridgman, who was quite famous in his field even then, was working on some human brain studies, and I was to help him by reproducing in drawings what I observed on slides through a microscope. Surely this brief experience helped to induce my lifelong interest in drawing and the brain.
One experience remains vivid—and funny in a weird way, looking back now. One day, Dr. Bridgman handed me a wet-looking package, told me it was a human brain to be delivered by hand to a colleague in the Administration Building at UCLA—all the way across the huge campus. I took the package and started the long walk. On the way, the package started dripping. I was horrified, and quite out of breath when at last I was able to deliver the package. To this day, I don’t know if my former professor was making a joke on his naïve young assistant and there was something else in that parcel, or if the task was real!
~ Betty Edwards