Physical contact with precious art tends to be prohibited, but Andrew Myers and Cantor Fine Art are bucking that norm with their new, uniquely meaningful collaboration. Please Touch the Art challenges people to see artwork from more diverse perspectives—even without actually seeing it.
The project's source of inspiration stems from a gallery show about five or six years ago, when Myers watched the way a blind visitor engaged with his 3D sculpted artworks, which are painted on thousands of screws that he drills into canvas at varying depths. After hearing verbal descriptions of the works, the blind stranger reached out to touch the textured renderings with his hands and immediately smiled with understanding, which moved Myers to consider the broader possibilities for multi-sensory engagement with his art.
To recreate that transformative moment, Myers connected with Cantor Fine Art and a blind craftsman named George Wurtzel. Wurtzel works for Enchanted Hills Camp in Napa, California, which teaches blindness skills to the newly visually-impaired. A professional woodworker with impeccable artisanal skills of his own, Wurtzel's first project at the camp was converting a barn into what is now its Tactile Art Center, including a gallery for fellow vision-impaired makers to present and sell their work. Wurtzel say his aim is “teaching people how to expand their artistic horizons”—a mission that meshes perfectly with Myers', who used his painted nail technique to construct a portrait of Wurtzel to be displayed in the center.
The piece contains around 4,000 screws and required about 2 months to complete, and it seems to have been well worth the effort, based on Wurtzel's reaction as conveyed in Cantor Fine Art's documentary video (which can be viewed below). He felt for his nose, his beard, and his other hallmark features as he experienced his portrait for the first time, repeatedly using the word “mind-boggling” to describe his delight. Whether for Wurtzel or for other blind or non-blind audiences, the work is accurate and engaging, spotlighting the ability of multidimensional art to make a meaningful impact on much more than just the average naked eye.
Here's artist Andrew Myers, hard at work.
And here's George Wurtzel, working in his own studio and standing with some of his handcrafted woodwork.
Despite their different ways of seeing, the two artists' multi-sensory perspectives made for a perfect match.
Thanks to the collaborative project, Wurtzel was able to experience his own portrait for the first time.
You can watch Wurtzel's candid reaction to his first time “seeing” his portrait:
My Modern Met granted permission to use media by Cantor Fine Art.