Wrap Holiday Plans Around Woodson Art Museum Visits :: Victor Vasarely’s Optical Illusions & Special Op Art / Visual Perception Programming

Written by Amy Beck

Deepen connections with friends and family during the holiday season — and beyond — by bringing them to the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, always admission free.

Eye-popping optical illusions abound in an exhibition featuring the work of the world-renowned father of the Op Art movement, “Victor Vasarely: Op Art Master,” from the collection of Herakleidon Museum in Athens, Greece, on display now through February 24, 2019.

Victor Vasarely, Xico 4 (from the portfolio Xico), 1973, serigraph, from the collection of Herakleidon Museum, Athens, Greece.

Vasarely’s innovative use of optical illusions became popular in the 1960s and ’70s, when Op Art extended into everyday life via design, advertisements, and architecture. With an “art for all” motto, he advocated for democratizing art by producing multiples and screen-prints and by integrating art into architecture and public spaces. His series of “architectural integrations” included his “Kinetic Wall” at the 1968 Winter Olympics’ speed circuit in Grenoble, France.

Vasarely’s bold monochromatic and vividly colorful, geometric artworks often seem to swell, recede, undulate, and pulsate.

Victor Vasarely, So-Lo (portfolio Bach-Vasarely, 1973), 1973, serigraph, 
from the collection of Herakleidon Museum, Athens, Greece.

To create this optical trickery — illusions of mass and motion that appear to emanate from his two-dimensional artwork — Vasarely experimented with color, background, geometric combinations, and materials as he sought contrast, distorted grids, and played with perspective.

With a lasting impact on print, poster, and fabric design, Vasarely’s artwork exploring optical illusions and spatial relationships is a source of inspiration for those interested in art, computer programming, architecture, and beyond.


Victor Vasarely, Axonometrie, 1969, serigraph, 
from the collection of Herakleidon Museum, Athens, Greece.


Hands-on Programs for All Ages Make Exhibition Connections

Museum programs for all ages bring to life themes, artistic styles, and techniques from “Victor Vasarely: Op Art Master” and the museum’s collection exhibitions. Op Art–infused games and puzzles are available in the galleries this winter.

In Art Park — the museum’s recently re-imagined, interactive family gallery — all ages explore kaleidoscopes, gears, and puzzles. Also, seek the art of Victor Vasarely’s optical-illusion gems via the museum’s free Activity Guide, designed for use by all ages, in the galleries and at home.

Upcoming Op Art Program Highlights

  • Art 101: Op Art Survey — Explore the rise and fall of the Op Art movement of the 1960s and ’70s with museum educator Catie Anderson. (Thursday, January 3, 5:30–6:30 p.m., & Wednesday, January 16, 12:15–1:00 p.m.)
  • Illusion Quilts Workshop — Pat Gaska, author of Visual Illusion Quilts, guides adult participants through patterns that create dimension and depth in quilts and the construction of a small block that may be the starting point for your next work of art. (Saturday, January 12, 1:00–4:00 p.m. Fee: $35 for members; $50 for nonmembers. Supply list shared upon registration; call 715-845-7010 to register.)
  • Team USA Snow Sculptors — See snow sculptors at work creating Cool Cube Illusion. (Saturday & Sunday, January 19–20, Noon–5:00 p.m.)

Learn more about visual perception — and interactions between the eye and mind — during programs presented by neuro-science and vision researchers in January and February:

  • Seeing & Not Seeing: Investigating the Foundations of Perception — Why do we often perceive things that don’t actually exist, while sometimes failing to perceive what is plainly in sight? Join Emily J. Ward, University of Wisconsin–Madison assistant professor and director of the Visual Cognition Laboratory as she discusses the cognitive science of visual perception. (Saturday, January 26, 1:00–2:00 p.m.)
  • Art 101: Understanding the Art of Vision — Parts of the brain that help us see objects and connect them to what we believe them to be are referred to collectively as the visual brain. Increased visual multitasking and stress from digital technology are changing our visual brains, impacting our ability to interpret visual experiences such as optical illusion. Shiela Reaves, professor and director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Life Sciences Communication at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a member of the UW–Madison McPherson Eye Research Institute, shares her research surrounding the intersections of neuroscience and the visual brain. (Thursday, February 7, 5:30–6:30 p.m.)
  • Art Beyond Sight — This program is designed for individuals with low vision or blindness. Participants join museum educators for a multisensory exploration of the galleries followed by hands-on art making inspired by Vasarely. Call the museum at 715-845-7010 to register. (Saturday, February 9, 10:30 a.m.– Noon).
  • Mixed-Media Op Art Wall Sculpture — In this family workshop, each family works together, using geometric shapes and colors and designing and applying layers to create a low-relief wall sculpture. Fee: $5 per family. Call 715-845-7010 to register. (Saturday, February 16, 1:00–3:00 p.m.)


 Additional Program Highlights

  • During Art Park Open Studio on the first Saturday of each month, 1:00–3:00 p.m., all ages drop in for hands-on art making inspired by artwork on view in the galleries.
  • SPARK! programs for individuals with memory loss and an accompanying friend or family member on the second Thursday of each month, 10:30 a.m.–Noon, offer social interaction in the galleries, followed by a hands-on art activity; call the museum at 715-845-7010 to register.
  • During Toddler Tuesdays on the third Tuesday of each month, 10:30 a.m.–Noon, little ones, 18 months–4 years, and accompanying adults drop in to sample art making and interactive play in Art Park.
  • Art Babies, Art Time for Tots, Art 4 You, and Art Kids programs offered during the last full week of January and February; check the online events calendar and call the museum at 715-845-7010 to register.

Explore these and other museum programs for all ages.

For details, check the museum’s events calendar at https://www.lywam.org. Contact the museum at info@lywam.org, call 715-845-7010, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


BMO Harris Bank is the presenting sponsor of “Victor Vasarely: Op Art Master.” Educational support comes from Peter and Nancy Hessert. Exhibitions and programs are supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts. Marketing supported in part by City of Wausau Room Tax funds.

This One Source Traveling Exhibition was organized by PAN Art Connections, Inc., and will remain on view at the Woodson Art Museum through February 24, 2019.

Holiday Gift Ideas

For gift ideas any time of year, consider museum giving opportunities — purchasing Woodson Art Museum memberships or making a Tribute Fund donation in honor or in memory of individuals or in celebration of events and milestones.

Become a member to receive an array of benefits with each membership level. For example, $50 family/household membership benefits encompass first notification of programs through events calendars mailed to you before each exhibition opening, preview reception invitations including Birds in Art, members newsletter, and discounts on shop purchases, classes/workshops, and trips. For details about various membership levels and associated benefits, visit https://www.lywam.org/get-involved/become-a-member/.

Support the Woodson Art Museum and encourage others to discover why it received the 2017 National Medal, the nation’s highest museum honor for service to the community.


The Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum serves the northcentral Wisconsin region through its commitment to always-free admission and a myriad of services offered for area schools, agencies, and all those who call Marathon County home.


AmyBeckAmy Beck

Marketing & Communications Manager  |  Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum

A former journalist, Amy has considered it a privilege to champion the Woodson Art Museum since 2010. Drawn by the natural, outdoor beauty of Wisconsin, Amy and her family moved to Wausau in 2007. After living in southwest Florida, upstate New York, and Iowa, Amy; her husband, Michael; two sons; and a daughter fell in love with Wisconsin during a family vacation and continue their quest to explore this state’s biking and hiking trails.  Email Amy Beck.

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