Contact by Olivia Brouwer
Art is often a domain that is inaccessible to the visually impaired. As a result, this community can feel marginalized and forgotten about. Too often we rely solely on the visitor’s sense of sight to create meaning from art. The on-going series, entitled CONTACT, aims to bring awareness to the necessity of including the visually impaired in not only the arts community, but also inclusion within the cultures of the world by engaging with art that can be enjoyed through both sight and touch.
As a partially blind artist, I am interested in exploring new ways to make art accessible to those who have sensory impairments, while also breaking down barriers regarding touching artworks on display. My previous work has dealt with the meaning-making process, including the Rorschach Inkblot test, and the difference between sight and perceiving what is seen or believed to be seen. My current work aims to expand on those themes by activating the viewer’s ability to make sense of art in new ways by creating pieces that are accessible on a visual and tactile level. The work will encourage viewers, both sighted and visually impaired, to use their visual and tactile senses in the meaning-making process, engaging with their imaginations and allowing them to experience a different way of communicating and interacting with art.
There are many experiential limitations for those who are visually impaired, especially now with the restrictions that come with the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic. Touch is no longer encouraged for anyone to interact with. CONTACT provides the opportunity to experience touch individually, to learn Braille for those who want to learn, and the message to encourage accessibility to the visually impaired on a global scale. This project is meant to be scaled out for the purpose of outreach – or at least to inspire outreach – to the communities that need opportunities for inclusion and equality, even during a pandemic.
About the Artist:
Olivia Brouwer is an emerging artist based in Hamilton, Ontario. In 2016, she graduated from the Art and Art History joint program, specializing in painting and printmaking, at the University of Toronto Mississauga and Sheridan College Institute of Technology. Since then, her work has been exhibited in a number of shows across Southern Ontario, including the Blackwood Gallery, the Art Museum at the University of Toronto, and the Robert Kananaj Gallery in collaboration with Emerging Young Artists.
As a partially blind artist, Brouwer explores the idea of blindness through her art, melding organic and geometric abstraction with scenes inspired by natural organisms and spiritual teachings relating to vision from both a metaphorical and literal sense. She translates the concept of blindness into a symbol, using it to examine ideas surrounding belief, meaning, clarity, and sight – both physical and spiritual. Her most recent work explores various encounters with art which activate human senses, enabling an inclusive experience for both visually impaired and sighted viewers.