Imagine being blind and not being able to see the splendor of autumn’s palette, constellations in the night sky and works of art like “Starry, Starry Night” or the “Mona Lisa.” Today, the blind may not be able to see fall foliage and The Big Dipper, but they can experience masterpieces from art history.
Friday night The Poets and I went to Bart’s mom’s art exhibit at the Duke Eye Center‘s Touchable Art Gallery. Sarah Barker created homages to works of art from some of the greats such as Picasso, Da Vinci, van Gogh and Warhol. The “Tactile Color”exhibit travels across the country showing how a fabric-centric color wheel system, which Barker created called the B-code, allows visually impaired people to “see” art through touch. Barker quilted specific fabrics to create touchable versions of famous art pieces.
For writers, crossing mediums in art usually means something is lost and gained. When a novel is translated to film, scenes are cut and changed for audience consumption, budgets and time constraints. Even changing the font of a poem alters the reader’s experience with it. Experiencing such iconic art by touch brings the viewer’s connection with the piece to a deeper level. If you close your eyes and try to “see” the piece with your hands, you start to rely on memory, trusting the fabric and trusting yourself to “paint” the picture in your mind. It brings you closer to the artist’s perspective – moving around a blank canvas to produce what’s hidden behind their own eye.
Although you can take a look at the exhibit here, I highly recommend getting a feel for it in person. It will be in Durham for a short time and then continuing on its travels around the country. Email me and I’ll check with Bart to learn the schedule.