Eiteljorg Welcomes Blind Artist Michael Naranjo

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“Please Touch” exhibit featuring works by Michael Naranjo/Photo by Joshua Cheek


The Eiteljorg Museum will host talks with sculptor Michael Naranjo Friday and Saturday to discuss his featured exhibit “Please Touch”.

Naranjo’s exhibit opened at the museum Jan. 18, but visitors will be able to meet with Naranjo at three different events to hear more about his artwork. Two of the talks are open to the public, while a third requires a reservation. 

The public talks are on Feb. 8 from noon to 12:20 p.m. and on Feb. 9 from 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. These events are free for IUPUI students to attend. 

The private talk is Saturday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and is only open to those 21 and older. This event will feature complimentary cocktails and light snacks courtesy of Hotel Tango. 

According to the staff at the museum, visitation has been slow in the two weeks since the exhibit opened, however, they expect turnout to increase this weekend. 

“We anticipate 30 to 50 people to attend each talk,” said Alisa Nordholt-Dean, an Eiteljorg employee.

The Eiteljorg website states that Naranjo lost his sight and sustained damage to his right arm at the age of 23 during the Vietnam War in 1968 when a grenade exploded in his hand. 

Naranjo, inspired by his father who was a noted Native American potter, began sculpting after losing his sight. He used his left hand to sculpt small animals and figures made of clay.

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An image of Michael Naranjo is seen behind one of his sculptures/Photo by Joshua Cheek


 

“Sculpting is an obsession to me,” Naranjo said in a video that displays inside the exhibit.

According to Steve Sipe, Director of Exhibition and Graphic Design for the museum, “Please Touch” was “designed specifically for greater accessibility by the blind and visually impaired.”

He said the labels for each piece have large print, Braille, and QR codes that allow viewers to scan it and access an audio recording about the work on their smartphone. 

The name of the exhibit, “Please Touch,” is an appropriate name for the exhibit.

Although most museum exhibits discourage visitors from touching the artwork, this exhibit does the exact opposite. The sculptures are intended to be touched to strike more than just one sense. People are encouraged to feel the sculptures made of bronze. 

“Art is generally considered to be a visual experience,” a sign at the entrance to the exhibit states. “Touching is a basic instinct and a way to experience objects.”

Along with this, a video that plays in the exhibit has visual description narrations for those with visual impairments. The video, which features Naranjo and his wife, explains Naranjo’s story of how he got into sculpting. 

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Sculptures by Michael Naranjo/Photo by Joshua Cheek


 

 

In the video, Naranjo recalls a fly landing on his face after losing his sight, and he questioned why the fly could see and he couldn’t. However, that was the only time he ever felt sadness for being blind. He has embraced it.

“Being blind is of no consequence,” Naranjo says in the video.

Seeing and feeling his artwork is very inspiring to all that visit, and visitors will be able to enjoy his works until July 28. 


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