Art is an important way to form connections and bring people together to share a powerful experience, but its inherently visual nature means the blind members of our society are often excluded. While some may experience the occasional immersive installation, tactile art—art you can touch and feel—is rare.
“Prior to the mid-1800s, tactile interaction was commonplace for visitors experiencing collections of art, but as museums of art evolved, rules forbidding touch became the norm. In some cases, these were to protect artwork that truly was not meant to be touched, but in large part these norms had nothing do with preservation and everything to do with 19th century politics of gender, race and class control,” according to Cantor Fine Art.
This point was made clear to artist Andrew Myers of Laguna Beach, California, after a unique interaction with a blind man. Myers is an artist who specializes in screw art—making elaborate images by putting screws in wood and painting them. While displaying his art an event, he noticed a blind man being led through the exhibit by a guide who was verbally describing the art around them. When the pair came to Myers’ work, he encouraged the man to reach out and touch a screw painting.
“He walked up to it and put his hand on this piece and started feeling it, and all of a sudden he got this huge smile on his face,” Myers says.
That rewarding moment inspired Myers to explore creating more tactile art for the blind. That’s when he met George Wurtzel, a blind artisan and teacher who works at the Enchanted Hills Camp in Napa, California, a camp for the visually impaired.
Wurtzel, a lifelong woodworker, was working to build a tactile art studio for the camp, and Myers decided to create its first piece: A portrait of Wurtzel.
Myers surprised Wurtzel with the portrait, and luckily the moment was captured in Please Touch the Art, a short documentary by Cantor Fine Art.
Do yourself a favor and take the 5 minutes to watch the film, and get ready for the waterworks.
Read more about the behind-the-scenes here.