"Elizabeth Goldring, a visually challenged artist and poet based in MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) since 1975, is known for her work with the scanning laser ophthalmoscope (SLO), an imaging tool that delivers visual information to the retina and records what the retina sees. In collaboration with the SLO inventor and physicians, scientists, engineers, artists and students at MIT and Harvard, she attempts to create visual experiences and poetry for people who have low vision or no sight at all. Now, through a grant from NASA, Goldring is developing a new, less expensive "Seeing Machine" that would make the space agency's explorations and discoveries accessible to the visually impaired.
"Unless you're an astrophysicist, the space program is completely visual; there's no element that can be heard or touched or smelled," said Goldring, currently the Charlotte Moorman Senior Fellow at CAVS. Like the SLO, Goldring's "Seeing Machine" provides information to the retina, but does not leave a record of the image, making her machine much more affordable.
Goldring's NASA-sponsored projects also include retinal prints of images from the space agency's extensive library, such as the Mars moon and the Cat's Eye Nebula, a compact planetary nebula in the constellation of Draco. A selection of her new retina prints, including NASA-sponsored works, are featured in a new exhibition titled "E Y - : Retina Prints and Poems" at the Christopher Brodigan Gallery at the Groton School (Farmer's Row, Route 111, Groton, Mass.) through June 5.
"To avoid visual confusion and frustrating 'white noise,' I believe that visual communication for people with impaired sight should rely on the same principles of economy and intensity that guide my poems," says Goldring.
The gallery is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment. For more information, call 978-448-7637.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 14, 2003.