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