New exhibit highlights art created to be touched

By Megan Viste

Cantor Fine Art studio’s new show has redefined what it means to experience artwork by asking guests to Please Touch The Art.

The gallery opened June 24 in West Hollywood with many of the artists in attendance and closed on Aug. 31.

Each piece of artwork in the exhibit encouraged physical interaction by not only engaging visual stimulation with use of color and light, but also tactile stimulation by exploring an array of textures through various mediums.

According to Cantor Fine Art’s gallery page, the exhibit was inspired by the work of artist Andrew Myers and his relationship with George Wurtzel, a craftsman with a visual impairment.

The group exhibition follows the recent release of a documentary by the same name, also presented by Cantor Fine Art.

The documentary follows Myers as he creates a portrait of Wurtzel using approximately 4,000 screws to create a three-dimensional image that maps the topography of Wurtzel’s face with his image painted along the tops of the screw heads. The portrait served as the featured artwork at the gallery’s entrance.

In the documentary, Myers recalls a moment at an art show where he observed a blind man who needed each work of art described to him. The man approached one of Myers’ screw paintings and smiled when he was able to feel and experience the art himself.

“For me it was just an amazing moment,” said Myers in the documentary. “There was a blind man that could almost see for a second.”

The objective of the Wurtzel portrait was to allow a blind person to observe an image of him/herself without the ability to see it. This objective was reflected in the tactile artwork presented at Please Touch The Art.

Devon Sioui produced three abstract paintings that incorporated messages spelled out in Braille beneath the colors to create a special experience for art lovers who are visually impaired, almost as if to reveal a secret note from the artist.

John Luebtow created two sculptures for the exhibit featuring a combwqination of metals and etched glass to enhance the physical feel of the art, while artist James McNabb carved an aerial view of cityscapes into wooden canvases to create a similar effect.

Alan Rorie created an art installation titled “Everbright” which featured a display of circular lights that changed color when the outer casings were rotated to allow guests the opportunity to interact with the artwork and create their own patterns of expression through the changing colors.

The “Augmented Reality Sandbox” catered to a more interactive experience by allowing guests to move the sand within the box while a projector sensed the topography change and mapped out the landscape accordingly with valleys, rivers, lakes, etc. The project, developed by students at UCLA and UC Davis, also allowed guests to create droughts and rain by the placement of their hands over the sand.

The artworks that reflected the mission to allow the visually impaired to experience and appreciate art most effectively were the pieces produced via 3D Tactile Fine Art Printing by 3DPhotoworks. These works took famous paintings, such as Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” and Vincent Van Gogh’s “Dr. Gachet,” and printed them on a three-dimensional smooth canvas that mapped the topography of the portraits in a similar manner to Myers’ screw paintings.

President of the National Federation of the Blind Marc Riccobono was the first to recognize the potential that tactile fine art printing provided for the community, according to a placard accompanying the prints.

“While sight is not a prerequisite for success, equal access to information is,” stated the placard quoting Riccobono. “The next great frontier in achieving the goal is access to images, not merely words describing them. This technology has the potential to allow greater participation by the blind in a wide variety of fields.”

Overall, Please Touch The Art created a unique and heightened experience for all in attendance and effectively broke the socially accepted gallery expectation, “Please don’t touch the art.”

Three-dimensional screw portrait by Andrew Myers

Megan Viste / The Poly Post

Three-dimensional screw portrait by Andrew Myers

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