Throughout our time in Paris, we have seen beautiful artwork in the form of paintings, music, sculpture, dance, and much more. Art is all about perception and I have been so grateful to be able to see and experience Monet’s use of color or Van Gogh’s use of texture. I have had the opportunity to be moved by their brush strokes and see the way they can turn an ordinary scene into a masterpiece. As I walked through the Musée d’Orsay and Musée Rodin, I was in awe of what I was seeing. I could see the level of detail and the individual brush strokes that were so meticulously planned. I had a completely different understanding of how they viewed the world because of their artwork. Looking at Monet’s series of the water lilies, I could tell how light affected his work. Seeing Rodin’s Thinker in real life showed me how much he focused on the hands and facial expressions. Just by seeing the artwork, there was so much I could discern about the artist and time.
However, not everyone has the same privilege as I do. People suffering from visual impairments, specifically cortical blindness, do not have the same opportunities as I do to experience and appreciate the visual arts. The way they can perceive art is significantly different because they can’t see the details like we can. This, however, doesn’t mean they can’t be a part of the visual art world! There are a lot more ways to engage visually impaired patients and bring their perspectives of the world to the forefront.
A study done in Poland has suggested that even those with visual impairments can create artwork that is recognizable by individuals without impairments (Szubielska, 2018). In this study, the author asked patients with cortical blindness and others less severe forms of visual impairment to come explore the arts in Poland through guided tours. The author wanted to allow the patients to feel more comfortable with visual art before asking them to attempt to make their own. These visually impaired individuals were given the opportunity to go through art workshops and at the end, their work was displayed to the public for exhibition (Szubielska, 2018). The artwork was shown in very dim lighting or
viewers were given blindfolds to recreate how a lot the visually impaired artists perceived the world. The author found that sculptures made were easier to make out because of their three-dimensional characteristics (Szubielska, 2018). Even though there was no analysis or calculation of significance, this study shed light on the effects of visual impairments on creativity and helped the general public understand that art can be created without sight (Szubielska, 2018).
Through this new platform, people walked through the exhibit and got to experience art through a unique perspective and comprehend the struggles visually impaired people face every day. For example, one visually impaired artist drew a stairwell as a way of expressing his voice that stairs are difficult to maneuver for visually impaired people (Szubielska, 2018). Exposure to this typeof art help shape perspective because recurring experiences help shape the way we perceive the world (Snyder et al, 2015). By displaying the artwork and allowing visually impaired individuals to express themselves creatively, the increase in attractiveness of their work increases because repeated perception of the same stimulus makes them more attractive (Snyder et al, 2015). Overall, even though this exhibition in Poland was very subjective, it was a great start to demonstrating differences in perception and how these experiences can help us gain a broader perspective. Hopefully it can lead to exhibitions by visually impaired artists in Paris and work by Van Gogh and Rodin displayed for visually impaired people to enjoy and appreciate as well!
Snyder JS, Schwiedrzik CM, Vitela AD, Melloni L (2015) How previous experience shapes perception in different sensory modalities. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience9.
Szubielska M (2018) People with sight impairment in the world of visual arts: does it make any sense? Disability & Society33:1533–1538.
Photo 1 and 2 were taken by me
Photo 3: Szubielska M (2018) People with sight impairment in the world of visual arts: does it make any sense? Disability & Society33:1533–1538.