Uta Barth, a professor emerita of art who is known internationally for her abstract photography, has won a $500,000 MacArthur Fellowship, one of the most prestigious awards in the country. She is one of 23 MacArthur Fellows for 2012 named by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

The fellowship, colloquially known as a “genius award,” is a no-strings-attached grant to individuals who show exceptional creativity in their work, promise for important future advances, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate new work.

Paid in quarterly installments over five years, the grant is designed to provide recipients with seed money for intellectual, social and artistic endeavors, as well as the flexibility to pursue their creative activities.

Chancellor Timothy P. White said, “I’m grateful that, this award notwithstanding, this talented woman will continue to teach our students so that they will benefit from the inspiration of a true genius.”

Barth experiments with depth of field, focus and framing in photographs that allude to places rather than describe them exactly.

Barth said the MacArthur Fellowship will allow for uninterrupted time in her studio and digitally archive her previous work.

“I plan to still teach, but on a very part-time basis. I learn much from teaching. ... I think it is a valuable thing to do,” she said.