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Transports Instantaneously painting "Transports Instantaneously," 2007, mixed media on canvas, 72x72 inches. (Courtesy of Katherine Sherwood, Gallery Paule Anglim and Hemphill Gallery)

National Academy of Sciences hosting Katherine Sherwood's 'Golgi's Door' show

– Some 11 paintings and prints by UC Berkeley art professor Katherine D. Sherwood on display through Feb. 22 in the National Academy of Sciences' Rotunda Gallery in Washington, D.C. contrast historic and contemporary medical imaging with ancient symbols of magic, mystery and healing from around the globe.

Cajal's Revenge painting
"Cajal's Revenge," 2007, mixed media on canvas, 64x50 inches. (Courtesy of Katherine Sherwood, Gallery Paule Anglim and Hemphill Gallery)
A visual commentary on the intersection of medicine and art, the exhibit is titled "Golgi's Door," in recognition of Camillo Golgi, a 19th-century Italian physician and scientist who won the 1906 Nobel Prize in Medicine. Golgi developed a path-breaking method of staining nerve tissues that made the brain's complex networking structure more visible and expanded understanding of the human nervous system.

Sherwood said her art's many influences include Golgi's discoveries and related sketches, neuro-anatomical prints made by Belgian anatomist and physician Andreas Vesalius in the 16th century, and even angiograms taken of her own brain after she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in 1997.

The names of Sherwood's paintings in the Washington exhibit tell their own stories: "Pump, Drug, Computers," "Shape of People," "CIA Genes" and "Golgi's Door."

"Katherine Sherwood's work invites us to think about thinking, to meditate on the brain, its form, its contents and the many ways artists, scientists and magicians have sought to map and harness its powers," Georgina Kleege, a UC Berkeley professor of English and an author, wrote in an essay in the "Golgi's Door" exhibit catalog.

"It is intensely cerebral work, on both the figurative and literal levels," Kleege wrote. "It makes us mindful of the brain as the site of ideas, imagination, memory and dreams. But it is also a fleshly thing, made of tissue, fueled by blood, heir to mishap, and yet capable of renewal and change."

In his essay for the catalog, neurologist Anjan Chatterjee expressed interest in the biological underpinnings of art and creativity and his captivation by Sherwood's art.

Firmer Spirit painting
"Firmer Spirit," 2006, archival digital pigment print, 42x36 inches. (Courtesy of Katherine Sherwood and Electric Works)
"The paintings loom large and the viewer can easily get lost in them," he wrote. "Forms flow to the edge of the canvasses.Nestled within these organic forms, mechanical shapes also are present. Some of the objects depicted are known. Others feel familiar but are not quite recognizable. Still others feel alien. The compositions are generally flat. But they also are layered with history, biology and even magic."

Sherwood won the 1999 Adeline Kent Award from the San Francisco Art Institute. She received a 2005-2006 Guggenheim Fellowship and a 2006-2007 Joan Mitchell Foundation grant.

The New Orleans native exhibits her work across the country, often holding shows in California. In 2000, her work was included in the Whitney Museum of American Art's' Biennial Exhibition in New York City.

Sherwood's work has previously been featured in "Visionary Anatomies," a 2005-2007 National Academy of Sciences exhibit of artists using anatomical images and concepts to express social, cultural and aesthetic ideas.

Her work also was displayed in "Inside Out Loud: Visualizing Women's Health in Contemporary Art" at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., and "Human Being" at the Chicago Cultural Center. She co-curated the 2005 exhibition, "Blind at the Museum," at the UC Berkeley Art Museum, where she organized an accompanying conference.