Touching the art is typically frowned upon at museums, but sculptor Tomas Bustos is encouraging it with a series of tactile pieces for blind art enthusiasts.
Bustos’s inspiration to create this collection came from his own experience viewing the Mona Lisa. When they visited the painting, he and his wife discussed how it was a shame that visually impaired people would never be able to see and experience the painting.
This gave Bustos the idea to create textured versions of famous paintings in a sculpture form. Studying the painting in minute detail to recreate it as exactly as possible, Bustos then drew the Mona Lisa to scale, sculpted it in clay, and cast it in bronze.
The exhibition is being displayed at Envision Arts in Wichita, Kansas, which is the first gallery in the United States Created by and for the visually impaired community. Open since January 2022, Envision Arts has held 16 exhibitions with work from approximately 250 artists.
Envision’s programming “enhances creative diversity and gives agency to individuals who have long been marginalized in the field of expressive arts,” stated Envision Arts’ program manager, Sarah Kephart.
Extra care was taken to ensure that the space is fully accessible, including covering the floor with white ridged lines so that people using sight canes can walk to each art piece. Each piece of art on the wall also has braille displays for each artist’s name and title of the artwork and a QR code for a spoken description of the piece.
Bustos has created tactile versions of Starry Night, Mona Lisa, American Gothic, and more. Additionally, Bustos works with Envision on their sculpture workshop for the blind and visually impaired where participants create their own clay projects.
“I’m doing this for a whole community [of people who are blind or visually impaired] who have never been able to see original works,” says Tomas Bustos.