Desert Caballeros Western Museum, October 17-February 28, 2016
This story was featured in the October 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art October 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story
Touch is one of our greatest senses, yet it’s not generally associated with appreciating art. The Desert Caballeros Western Museum exhibition titled All Things Are Possible: The Inspired Life Work of Michael Naranjo hopes to change that. From October 17 to February 28, 2016, visitors can experience the works of blind sculptor Michael Naranjo not only with their eyes, but also with their hands. “A significant portion of the pieces will be set up for tactile exploration,” says Sharon Ricci, public relations manager for the museum. “Being a blind sculptor, he sees through his hands, and he wants people to experience the pieces also with their hands—to feel the shapes and feel the places where it’s smooth or textured.” The exhibition includes 40 works that span Naranjo’s career.
Over 40 years ago, Naranjo was injured in the Vietnam War when a grenade exploded, damaging his right hand and leaving him blind. Through tremendous determination, Naranjo overcame his limitations to pursue his love of sculpting. Focusing on the figure and wildlife, and inspired by his Native American heritage, Naranjo’s works evoke a fluid quality that results from his life in the dark. “Over the years [my pieces] have become more fluid,” Naranjo says. “I like catching people, especially the dancers, between steps, with one foot up, one down, and the body twisted slightly—because we’re not stiff, we’re fluid. And not having any sight, you can’t move fast or you run into things. It’s a gentle kind of existence, so the pieces come out perhaps more gentle.”
The exhibit also includes an audio component guests can use to hear the artist speak about his works as they visit. And on February 9, Naranjo talks about his process and work at the museum’s weekly Tuesday Talks. Using only three fingers on his left hand, Naranjo’s works take time to produce; yet his mastery comes from his ability to create regardless of his restrictions. “One of our main senses is touch, and so we’re all in many ways drawn to that,” he says. “I think it really leads to welcoming people, and letting them touch the works adds another perspective.” —Joe Kovack
Featured in the October 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
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