At Bowdoin College Museum, dark visions illuminated

BRUNSWICK, Maine — Our eyes have two kinds of light-receptive cells: rods and cones. The cones work best in daylight. They’re sharp, they pick up on the many slippery wonders of color. But they don’t work in the dark.

That’s when the rods kick in. Rod cells are remarkably efficient in low-light conditions. But they take about two hours to reach maximum efficacy, and they don’t detect color.

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It’s hard to judge distance and volume by tones of gray alone, and this slight enfeeblement can make the mind more alert in the dark. It heightens the whole body’s senses.

“Night Vision: Nocturnes in American Art, 1860-1960,” a major exhibition at Bowdoin College Museum of Art

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