Bevil Conway

Bevil Conway is an artist, an Associate Professor of Neuroscience at Wellesley College, and a Lecturer on Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. Conway’s research examines the neural basis for visual behavior, with a particular focus on color, and investigates the relationship between visual processing, visual art and art practice. Conway’s artwork explores a range of topics and themes including the limits of visualization, cultural metamorphosis and concepts of beauty and the sublime. In addition to printmaking, he uses watercolor, oils, glass and silk.

Conway is a native of Zimbabwe and a transplant first to Canada and then to Cambridge, MA. Conway completed his undergraduate training at McGill University in Montreal, winning the Hewlett Packard Prize for the top Science and Engineering student in his first year and the Muriel Roscoe Prize for the top student in Biology upon graduation. He studied painting with Gentile Tondino in the faculty of architecture at McGill University. Conway then finished a Masters of Medical Sciences (1998) at Harvard Medical School, a PhD (2001) and post-doctoral training in Neurobiology at Harvard University working with Margaret Livingstone and David Hubel. Following his graduate training, Conway moved to Nepal for eight months to paint and to help build the academic curriculum of the Kathmandu University Medical School, where he served as the Director of Education for Physiology and Pathophysiology. In 2003, he was elected a Junior Fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows in recognition of his contributions to our understanding of the neural basis for visual perception. Prior to joining the faculty at Wellesley College, Conway was also an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow at the University of Bremen, Germany. He joined the Wellesley faculty in 2007 as Knafel Assistant Professor of Natural Science.

Conway’s research uses various techniques including whole brain functional imaging (fMRI), single-unit neuron recording, psychophysics and computational approaches. His work has been supported by major grants from the Whitehall Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, where he was the Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Fellow in 2010/2011. His work provided the first conclusive proof of double-opponent neurons in primary visual cortex; these cells have been postulated to underlie color contrast and color constancy and are essential building blocks of color vision. Using a combination of fMRI and targeted single-unit recording, Conway and his team have gone on to identify specialized modules at a stage in the color-processing hierarchy downstream of primary visual cortex important for encoding hue.

Conway has authored over two dozen articles and one book, Neural Mechanisms of Color Vision (Kluwer, 2002). In addition, he has written on the intersection between visual neuroscience and visual art and is a pioneer in the emerging field of Vision and Art, having given numerous invited lectures on the topic at institutions including Harvard’s Mind Brain and Behavior Institute, MIT; the Columbus College of Art and Design; Lyme Academy of Fine Art; the Electric Power and Research Institute; the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY); and the Brooklyn Museum of Fine Art (NY). His research is widely cited in the research literature and has been reviewed in the popular press by the Boston Globe, the New York Times and Scientific American. In addition, Conway’s artwork has been published in several books, including Vision and Art (by Margaret Livingstone, Abrams, 2002) and Brain and Visual Perception (by David Hubel, Oxford University Press, 2005), and is held in collections at the Fogg Museum (Cambridge, MA) and in many private collections in Canada, America, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

WAMC: Dr. Bevil Conway, Wellesley College – Art and the Neuroscience of Color

PLOS Biology: Neuroaesthetics and the Trouble with Beauty
CE Press: Doing Science Making Art
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences: Color consilience: color through the lens of art practice, history, philosophy, and neuroscience
The Neuroscientist: Color Vision, Cones, and Color-Coding in the Cortex

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