Sunday, July 17, 2011

Carmelo Gannello, John Bramblitt, and Petros Roukoutakis

"What is art, anyway?" asks Elisabeth Axel in this video. "Is it the image in the artist's mind or the painting hanging on the museum wall?" Axel isn't talking about post-structuralism or Death of the Artist. She is instead introducing art education for blind people and how it works.

The late Carmelo Gannello was a severely visually impaired artist whose vision was obscured by flashing, intense or dark orbs in his eye. He incorporated the orbs into his work at the suggestion of his doctor. It was hard to find examples of his work but I really love his stark graphic abstractions. Creating an image of an eye that isn't grandiose or cliche is a tall order but here you go:

Carmelo Gannello, Running River. Woodblock print (9" x 11"), 1977.

[Image description: A bluish-black and white geometric abstract print with obvious carving marks. A cube, multiple circles and concentric circles intersect each other in front of a body of water with crude mountains and sky in the background. On the left a pair of scissors morphs into what could be an eye so that they both become the outline and the blades appear to be encircling the eye as if to cut it. The eye also functions as a sun whose beams enter the cube and shine on a fish. The style is similar to Paul Klee and Joan Miro.]

I found some more videos of artists who are working completely without vision, by feel only. John Bramblitt, who lost his vision later in life, does some absolutely amazing portraiture. I really wish I could find more video showing his and others' working process (most of these videos understandably focus on how inspirational the artists' efforts are). Intensely valuing color was another common theme, which surprised me considering some of the artists featured had never seen color before.

Petros Roukoutakis, a Greek sculptor who is blind. [Video shows Roukoutakis at a table sculpting a one foot tall clay female figure who looks like an early Picasso figure or a more representational Henry Moore figure. He uses his fingers only, no tools, creating a smooth rounded surface. The effed up music is not really descriptive of what's shown in the video.]

Another video of John Bramblitt, who does a great job at describing what he's doing (ahem, not all artists can do that well). [Video description: it shows him feeling a plaster mold of a face, then making some preliminary sketches using a paste or paint that he squeezes onto paper, creating a raised line. He then prepares a canvas, creates such a raised outline in white, then using a brush fills in colors which are very precise realistic colors for a very realistic looking face. He creates the portrait on the left side of the horizontal canvas, then fills the right side with fluid, loose, thick vertical dashes of bright blues, greens, and yellows that correspond to the music notes he describes. He then stretches the canvas.]

The first video I linked to, "What is Possible: Art Education for the Blind," depicts how a blind gallery goer can appreciate an art object by feel if such a tour program is available. It occurred to me that conceptual art and art that eschews the object-hood of artwork would be particularly accessible to not only blind people but people with other sensory disabilities or people who cannot leave their homes easily to see a piece of art in question.

I'm happy to say I think large portions of this blog are very appropriate for someone without sight, so I'm going to try to make this blog more accessible: image descriptions under the pictures I post, descriptions of how the work in question is situated within a gallery. Any other suggestions would be appreciated.

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