Imagine being able to appreciate art even if you were visually impaired or had low vision. This is now possible at the Reece Museum for the first time.
The Reece Museum partnered with the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts for the exhibit to show “A New Subjectivity: Figurative Painting After 2000.” This exhibit is composed of pieces by female artists that attempt to categorize Expressionism in new terms.
According to a news release by the Office of Unity Relations, the female artists include Gina Beavers, Katherine Bernhardt, Katherine Bradford, Jackie Glendel, Liz Markus and Rose Wylie.
The Reece Museum offered tours for those with low vision and the visually impaired on Oct. 24 and again Oct. 28. The tours included verbal descriptions of the art to help people visualize it. There were also hand-held tactile boards of the paintings as well.
The news release also stated that the tours have been crafted with assistance from the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston along with the ETSU Office of Disability Services. Jessie Rogers, a blind student at ETSU, also contributed as a consultant.
In terms of the pieces of artwork themselves, Reece Museum Exhibitions Coordinator Spenser Brenner believes they contain powerful representations.
“One of the pieces depicts an eye that applies makeup,” Brenner said. “It’s fascinating that until you say what gender it is, you don’t know. It could be a man or a woman applying the makeup.”
In a quote listed in the press release, Brenner mentioned that the show is good for the special accommodations, as well as those who do not need additional assistance.
For Saro Lynch-Thomason, a general assistant for the museum who has a background in storytelling and illustrating, this has been a very insightful experience.
“There’s a lot I have learned as a sighted person that I would not have observed or thought about otherwise through this experience,” she said.
She has helped both develop the script for the tours as well as choose the boards used with the help of Reece Museum Student Worker Jill Childress.
“This experience has shown me all the different sensory ways you can experience a painting,” Lynch-Thomason said.
Some of the ways in which they describe a painting involves elements like figures in the image, the type of strokes used in the paint, how the texture canvas may feel, the composition and even the perceived temperature of the painting.
Some descriptions even include detailing a color to someone who may have never seen this color before.
“When describing a color to someone who has never seen it before, we try to relate it to other things,” Lynch-Thomason said. “The color red, for instance, could be something juicy like a strawberry while the color blue could be reminiscent of something cold or wet. It’s interesting though because it is all interpretive for each of us who relate colors to different experiences.”
The exhibit, as well as the tours, will be available through Dec. 15. On Nov. 9 at 5 p.m., curator Jason Stopa will be present for a free talk at the museum followed by a reception.
The auditory scripts will be recorded and posted on the museum’s website at www.etsu.edu/reece. The museum’s hours are Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
For more information, contact the Reece Museum at 423-439-4392, the ETSU Office of Disability Services at 423-439-8346 or the Martin School of the Arts website at www.etsu.edu/martin.