"Tactile Color" was inspired by an art show I went to of visually impaired artists. There where lots of things I wasn’t use to: for example, next to each art work there was the artist’s statement in print and Braille. There where lots of guide dogs. And a booklet was handed out about the artists that could be read by the sighted and the visually impaired.
Even though I want people to touch my art, at the show I couldn’t bring myself to feel the oil paintings. The visually impaired touched them but I couldn’t. I think that’s because of conditioning from galleries and museums. Feeling the art helped to understand the meaning and create an experience, where as I just used my eyes.
Another surprise at the show was the use of color. It was everywhere! It reminded me of a children’s book in Braille called “A Color of His Own” by Leo Lionni, transcribed by Dorthy Johnson. The pages are printed on thin, white plastic. The pictures are raised, just like the Braille, so they can be felt. The tactile illustrations are by Marcy Meyer. At the beginning of the book, Meyer, created a texture legend, that assigns a color to each texture. The pictures are highly textured, making them exciting to feel and beautiful to look at. It is so much fun imagining the colors of the pictures by the textures.
These experiences inspired me to make a sculpture that allows touch in a gallery setting. The sculpture is a table and chair covered in soft, knit materials. It is entirely white. I picked Braille to be an integral part, because it’s agreed upon as an acceptable thing to touch. To further encourage interaction, I used a variety of textures, such as super fuzzy yarn and soft clothes line.
Paying homage to the creator of Braille was also important to me because of his tenacity and generosity. Louis Braille, the inventor, experimented with writing his code using knitting needles. So I chose to knit a large majority of the sculpture.
The Braille book of “A Color of His Own” made me question what a sculpture would look like if it had a texture legend. On my sculpture, the desk drawer has a legend where each texture represents a color. The clothes line is turquoise. The poofy boa is yellow…
Elizabeth Symington, Tactile Color, 2008
53" x 27" x 20"
Special thanks to Carolina Huerta
Photos by Luke Goodman