"GO AHEAD and touch it," says Katharine Cobey, as a visitor timidly extends a palm to the cool surface of a raku tile. A fiber artist at the Torpedo Factory, Cobey has volunteered to encourage the unthinkable -- putting your hands on art.
"Art to See, Touch and Hear" is a special kind of show. Although it started out three years ago as an annual show for the visually impaired, anyone can learn from it. At the very least it's a sampling of the works of 34 Torpedo Factory artists, who created them with this show in mind.
Here, a fountain sculpture gurgles, and a knitted muff jingles. There are paintings with the visual volume turned way up, and windchimes, jewelry and mosaics. Embossed prints are covered with clear plastic wrap, so that you can feel their texture without getting them dirty. In studio grey, one etched zinc plate actually reads better with the eyes closed; the print it made, called "Forms of Silence," isn't here.
Hung or placed at wheelchair level, the works are numbered in braille. Versions of the catalogue are available in braille, in large type and on tape-recording, with the artists describing their techniques and intentions.
Of all the art, everyone seems to like "Brenda Holding Her Head Together" the best. By Carol Gellner Levin, this is a head of a woman in nubby terra cotta, embedded with nuts and bolts and metal fasteners for exploring hands. As the catalogue explains, Brenda "is a friend of the artist who is experiencing a time of depression and disillusionment and holds her head up and together as best she can." Maybe she'd be more comfortable with the rollers out of her hair.
ART TO SEE, TOUCH AND HEAR -- At the Torpedo Factory, 105 N. Union Street, Alexandria, through March 30.