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Emilie Gossiaux, More Blind Artists Featured in New SF Exhibit

Emilie Gossiaux

“The Mind’s Eye” is open from 12-5 p.m.,  Oct. 1-6 at StoreFrontLabs, 337 Shotwell St., San Francisco.

This weekend a new exhibit called Indigo Mind opened at the StoreFrontLab space in San Francisco’s Mission district. The six-week rotating exhibit features the artwork of 45 individual artists, all exploring themes and ideas from the work of the late great neuroscientist Oliver Sacks. Coming up in week two of the exhibit, beginning October 1, we’re particularly excited for the presentation of some very special blind artists.

Some of our favorite artists, both familiar and new to the scene, are to be featured in Week 2 of Indigo Mind, entitled “The Mind’s Eye.” These include our board member and blind architect Chris Downey, artist and educator Jennifer Justice (also a judge for this year’s Superfest Disability Film Festival), and a relative newcomer to SF’s galleries, Emilie Gossiaux.

Gossiaux is a promising name not only in the sculpting and visual arts communities but for blind and deaf art enthusiasts everywhere. The first deaf-blind graduate of The Cooper Union school of art in New York City, Gossiaux had a deep desire to practice art from a young age, and didn’t let her lifelong hearing loss, or the accident that caused her sudden blindness derail her mission. As a student, she received national awards of excellence, while her story was told everywhere from Radiolab to the New York Times. Today, Emilie is not only thriving as a sculptor and tactile artist, but using cutting edge technology to re-access a world of brush and pen strokes that she once thought she’d lost.

Video: Emilie Gossiaux paints with a BrainPort tongue sensor:

In honor of Emilie’s arrival in San Francisco this week, we asked the LightHouse’s George Wurtzel to tell us a bit about her. Wurtzel, who is blind himself, had the opportunity to instruct Emilie early on in her adaptive process, and has been a longtime supporter of her artistic journey. He was the first person to engage the newly blind Gossiaux with woodworking, sculpture, or show her how to work a lathe. Wurtzel was, as Gossiaux recently told Paste Magazine, “the one who really taught me how to use my hands again.”

Here are George Wurtzel’s thoughts:

You meet some people in your life that have a profound impact on you and the way you look at the world: Emilie Gossiaux is one of those people. I met her while teaching at a rehabilitation center for the blind. I was the industrial arts teacher. Emilie was the first student that I had who was an artist, and I realized that I had to Get It Right. I needed to make sure that she knew that the art was still inside of her.

Emilie GossiauxEveryone has experienced a rough day and the feeling of not being sure of wanting to go on. Emilie had had a bad day about one year before I met her. The world as she had known it had changed and was not going to change back ever again. There has been lots written about Emilie by herself and by other people, so I see no point to talk about it, except to say her bad day was very bad. My job was to help her get back to where she wanted to be, which was the same thing she wanted to be all of her life–an artist. Our first joint project was a wood carving. I wanted her to think about where she was and where she wanted to go. I took three pieces of wood and joined them together. The center piece was to represent a wall; the side I carved was Emilie, like a bird crashing into the wall. The side she was to carve was what she was going to be now coming out the other side of the wall. Emilie in her quest to return to art carved her side into a knife form to cut loose all the things that were keeping her from returning to her passion. Over the next eight months we carved wood, ice, and played in clay and every day I saw her regaining her confidence to return to her life’s dreams. And now we get to see the results of one persons love for what she does presented in a way that will let you and me see a little glimpse into the mind of someone who, no matter what life throws at her, will strive to make others’ lives richer. After you see her work and learn her journey, the way you look at the world will be changed forever- not from the pain of her accident, but from the journey of a person who will let nothing stand in the way of her wanting to make beautiful things to be enjoyed by you!
Learn more about Indigo Mind and get the schedule at StoreFrontLab’s website.