Welcome to Art is Holistic!

11 03 2011

As an amateur artist myself, I became inspired after watching an old episode of The Nature of Things called “Vision of the Blind” to learn more about contemporary art produced by people who are blind.  I also became interested in music produced by people who are deaf.  In short, this website is devoted to providing information about artists with sensory deficits who create beautiful works of art in the modality (visual or auditory) that has been impaired.

"Isolation" painting by John Bramblitt

"Isolation" painting by John Bramblitt

My aim is to raise awareness that human beings perceive the world with the entire being. If one sensory modality is impaired, there are still four other senses one can rely on to produce or consume art, whether it is a painting, a sculpture, a song, etc.  Using the sense of touch, visual artists who are blind orient themselves on a canvas or a palette.  In fact,  psychologist Victor Lowenfeld has argued that creating sculptures helps blind people to learn how to better orient themselves in their environment, as both of these skills require “the ability to put fragmentary impressions together to form a meaningful whole” (Science News Letter, 1950, p. 181).  More recent anecdotal accounts from the personal experiences of a blind artist named John Bramblitt confirms that not only sculpture, but also painting can aid visually impaired people to orient themselves in their world.

Evelyn Glennie performing on stage

Evelyn Glennie performing on stage

Similarly, musicians who are deaf can discriminate between the different notes played on a musical instrument through vibrations in their hands and fingertips, according to Grammy-award winning Evelyn Glennie herself.   Moreover,  musical educators from the Metropolitan School for the Deaf in Toronto and the California School for the Deaf  believe that having a basic understanding of music, rhythm, and timing helps deaf children to learn how to speak, sing songs, recite poetry, and play musical instruments (Fahey & Birkenshaw, 1972).  By listening to subtle tactile sensations, an artist with either blindness, deafness, or both, is able to express him- or herself artistically as well as, or better than, a sighted and hearing person.

The most famous example of such an artist is certainly Beethoven, who likely suffered otosclerosis (conductive hearing loss) resulting in deafness by his late middle aged years.  This website has chosen to focus on contemporary, professional deaf musicians who are still alive and continue to play and compose music to this day, including Evelyn Glennie and Sean Forbes.  More information about both of these musicians is provided on the “Deaf Musicians” page.

There are even more visual artists who draw, paint, sculpt, and do photography despite being blind.  The most astonishing of these artists is a talented painter and drawer who was blind from birth, named Esref Armagan.  More common are visual artists who were born sighted and later acquired blindness, such as painters John Bramblitt and Maria Santos.  Other noteworthy artists include sculptor Ahmet Ustunel, and photographers Peter Eckert and Bruce Hall.  More information about each of these visual artists is provided on the “Blind Artists” page.

I believe that the international art world can only be accessible to a diverse and representative range of perspectives by ensuring equal opportunities for the education and occupation of artists everywhere based solely on their artistic abilities and understanding of the art form with appropriate accommodation whenever necessary.  I have included a number a links to websites devoted to this cause on the top-right of this page.  Each of these organizations promotes accessibility to the production and consumption of the arts, specifically for either blind or deaf people.

I hope that anyone with a sensory/perceptual disability with a passion for the arts finds this website both helpful and inspiring.  Cheers!