Please Touch the Art: Watch a Blind Man Experience His Own Portrait for the First Time

We all know the rules of art muse­ums: look, but don’t touch. This does­n’t both­er most of us most of the time, but for art-lovers who hap­pen to be blind and thus use feel­ing as a sub­sti­tute for see­ing, it presents a prob­lem indeed — but it also opens up an artis­tic oppor­tu­ni­ty. “Can­tor Fine Art, a just-launched gallery by father and son team Lar­ry and Sam Can­tor, offers a sto­ry of a dif­fer­ent kind of phys­i­cal inter­ac­tion with art in their project, Please Touch the Art,” writes The Cre­ator’s Pro­jec­t’s Gabrielle Bruney. “They part­nered with artist Andrew Myers to cre­ate a tac­tile paint­ing that is appre­cia­ble by both sight­ed and blind art lovers.”

In the five-minute video above, you can see — or if visu­al­ly impaired, hear — Myers dis­cussing the begin­nings of his “screw pieces,” images made by dri­ving count­less screws into a piece of wood, each one ulti­mate­ly act­ing as a kind of phys­i­cal, three-dimen­sion­al pix­el. Though Myers did­n’t begin these works with the blind in mind, one such gallery-goer’s vis­it to his show, and the “huge smile on his face” when he put his hand to the screw pieces, got him think­ing of the pos­si­bil­i­ties in that direc­tion. Thanks to his art, “there was a blind man who could almost see for a sec­ond.”

We also meet the blind wood­work­er George Wurtzel, cur­rent­ly at work on “con­vert­ing an old grape crush­ing barn into a Tac­tile Art Cen­ter” which com­bines a wood­work­ing shop with a “tac­tile gallery space where the visu­al­ly impaired can expe­ri­ence and sell art­work.” Dis­cov­er­ing their shared pas­sion for tac­tile art, Myers decides to make a sur­prise for Wurtzel, “the first por­trait of him­self he can actu­al­ly feel,” the first new piece for his tac­tile art gallery. The video cap­tures the big reveal, which con­verts Wurtzel from his skep­ti­cism about the screw-piece form. Still, even as he runs his fin­gers over his own metal­li­cized fea­tures, he has his objec­tions: “My nose is not that big. I’m sor­ry. I like the beard, though. The beard is good. The beard is real­ly good.”

You can read more about the project at Can­tor Fine Art’s web site. “The one thing I wish,” Myers adds, “is that George could see the piece the way I see it, but at the same time, I would like to look at things the way he sees the world.” You can get more a sense of art as seen, as Bil­ly Joel once sang, by the eyes of the blind in our pre­vi­ous posts on the Prado’s 3D-print­ed exhi­bi­tion for the visu­al­ly impaired and the expe­ri­ence of the col­or­blind see­ing art in col­or for the first time. It seems we’ve found our­selves at the dawn of a new gold­en age for art that does­n’t require sight. If a gallery boom fol­lows, will they serve cof­fee roast­ed by the Unseen Bean?

via The Cre­ator’s Project

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Pra­do Muse­um Cre­ates the First Art Exhi­bi­tion for the Visu­al­ly Impaired, Using 3D Print­ing

What It’s Like to Be Col­or Blind and See Art in Col­or for the First Time

Jorge Luis Borges, After Going Blind, Draws a Self-Por­trait

Wake Up and Smell the Cof­fee with Blind Mas­ter Roast­er Ger­ry Leary

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.


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