December 8, 2022

In a world with so many creative minds painting canvases and carving their imagination into wood, how many artists make accessibility and inclusivity a primary concern?

Olivia Brouwer makes one, with her pandemic-project “SenseAbility: The Scales That Fall From Our Eyes”. The main inspiration and inherent goal of this interactive exhibit is to allow anyone, whether they are blind, colour-blind or sighted, to interact with and absorb her works.

Brouwer, who is partially blind in one eye as a result of a virus caused by chickenpox, found an intriguing concept in a bible verse: “At that instant, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and his sight was restored.”

Commenting on the inspiration for her work and the name of the exhibit, Brower said Saul “became blind because he was doing these bad things. But eventually when his heart changed, his blindness fell like scales.”

She said she found the image “really interesting” and wanted to “tie this image of the scale into my artwork a little bit more.”

Three pieces from Oliva’s exhibit, including Scales, which has a humorous “Please Touch” sign placed below. Photo by Tristan Stronge.

One piece called “Scales”, was very touch-based, making a interactive for both blind and sighted people to feel and enjoy.

“Thousands of the little pieces that look like the scales, applied with oil paint so it’s very heavy,” Brouwer said on the work that took her one year to fully put together. “When you walk around the painting, it creates this moving abstract image and when you feel it makes these different sounds as well.”

Also filled with meticulous attention to accessibility is the interview-based series called “Soft-Spoken”, in which Olivia interviewed 7 blind and colour blind people and turned their interviews into an interactive piece.

“I paraphrased their interviews and recorded everything, and then transferred everything into braille, individually painting each one. It’s connected to a touch board, which is like a small computer with a microchip in it that has all the sound files. The black paint (connecting the board to each passage of braille) is conductive so it will play the recording of the interviews,” Brouwer said of the series.

A few more of Brouwer‘s art pieces including some from her Inkblot and CONTACT Kit series. Photo by Tristan Stronge

Brouwer said that her next works will be more like “sculptural integrations with paintings”, so she can focus more on coloyr and texture.

“SenseAbility: The Scales That Fall From Our Eyes” is currently on display at THEMUSEUM for anyone who wants to experience it.

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