A Blind Man Experiences a Portrait of Himself for the First Time

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Laguna Beach-based artist Andrew Myers was showing his work at a local fair when he noticed a blind man being led through the exhibits, and having the work described to him. Myers was showing a series he called TFL (aka Topographical Facial Landscapes, each a textured portrait made up of thousands of screws),  and invited the man, without explanation, to come touch the pieces. The man lit up.

Moved by the experience, Myers worked with his representatives at Cantor Fine Art to find and produce a project specifically intended for a blind audience. Here’s a short video the gallery produced about the experience; you can read more detail about it, including Myers’ creative process, below.

Photo portrait of George Wurzel from which the project was made

This is the photo portrait of George Wurtzel from which Myers worked. Wurtzel is a blind woodworker and teacher working at Enchanted Hills, a summer camp for the visually impaired outside of Napa.  He teaches visitors how to use tools to become artisans themselves.

Early stages of tactile portrait of George Wurzel by Andrew Myers

Myers is a sculptor by training, working with oil paint, charcoal, bronze, cement, and found objects. He uses drywall screws and oil paints for his TFL series. First he draws the portrait from its photo reference.

Myers at work on the tactile portrait of George Wurzel

Then he drills his grid in preparation for the screws. He envisions the subject’s face as a mountain range, with the nose as its peak, and the facial contours at varying elevations.

Myers at work on the tactile portrait of George Wurzel

Tactile portrait of George Wurzel before the paint is applied

Wurtzel’s portrait took two months to complete, and was made up of 4,000 screws.

Myers at work on the tactile portrait of George Wurzel

Part of the magic of Myers’ tactile portraits are their 3D photo realism when viewed from a distance. He achieves this effect by using the paint to enhance shadows created by the contoured portrait. As many as five different colors are painted on a single screw head.

Finished tactile portrait of George Wurzel

The finished work.

George Wurzel reacts to his tactile portrait

Wurtzel after his first touch — reportedly the first time he’d been able to feel and recognize a picture of himself. He’s currently engaged in converting the space above the camp woodworking shop into a Tactile Art Center where the visually impaired can both experience and sell work.