Museum of Northern Arizona

Flagstaff, AZ



Kaleidoscopes: Symmetry in Motion


Imagine a kaleidoscope large enough to stand inside, kaleidoscopes you could wear, and those made of unusual materials like alabaster, found objects, or zebra wood. Those are just a few of the highlights of a new Museum of Northern Arizona exhibit Kaleidoscopes: Symmetry in Motion, which runs through April 9, 2000. To further the inherent fascination of kaleidoscopes, the Museum is offering children's programs where kids can make their own visual creations with the assistance of a Gallery Guide. These programs are offered to drop-in visitors for the regular price of admission on the first and third Sundays of each month the exhibit is open from 2 to 4 PM. (left: Kaleidoscope by Michael Redmond, photo by Mike Thompson)

Over 200 kaleidoscopes were selected for Kaleidoscopes: Symmetry in Motion from the personal collection of Tess and Marty Scherer, who own a kaleidoscope art gallery in Sedona, Ariz. Marty began collecting the optical wonders 40 years ago and even owns the first patented kaleidoscope, invented by Scottish physicist Sir David Brewster in 1817. Brewster said of his invention, "It will create in a single hour what a thousand artists could not invent in the course of a year" (right: Kaleidoscopes from the Scherer Collection, photo by Mike Thompson)

The exhibit explores many of the facets that intrigued Brewster, including the math and science behind the optics, as well as ideas like optical milestones, the history of kaleidoscopes, and biographies of the nearly 20 artists who made the kaleidoscopes featured in the exhibit.

Some of the artists utilize slumped glass, stained glass, flame-worked glass, alabaster, and fine and rare woods. The exhibit incorporates an array of kaleidoscopes including miniatures, jewelry, toys, marble-filled, liquid-filled, polyangular, those crafted from found objects, and a few featuring three-dimensional illusions. The collection's eclectic and awe-inspiring nature offers the perfect opportunity for MNA to fulfill its mission of art education.

"We chose the Museum of Northern Arizona because of its dedication to the community in offering comprehensive exhibits that are not only displayed well, but also have an emphasis on education," said Tess Scherer. (left: Interior View, photo by Tess Scherer)

Basically, a kaleidoscope is a series of two or three mirrors of equal length and width, placed together to form a triangle. Objects are placed at one end of the mirror-system and viewed through the opposite end; they are reflected internally from the surfaces of the mirrors to form interesting patterns. The number of reflections and the complexity of the patterns seen are directly related to the angles between the mirrors. Today there are over 150 craftsmen making kaleidoscopes, which range from the familiar cardboard toys to sophisticated artistic designs.

Revised 2/23/00

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Copyright 2010 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.