Tactile art at Mesa Lab

Exhibit encourages visitors to get hands on

October 14, 2016 | “Look, but don’t touch!” is a familiar phrase many parents of young children say again and again. The current art exhibit at the Mesa Lab is an exception to this rule. The pieces were created to be experienced through both sight and touch by visitors of all ages. You must really touch the art to truly see it.  

Two Colorado artists have their work on display, Ann Cunningham and Nathan Abels. Abels’ part of the exhibit includes the work of students from Arapahoe Community College, where he is an educator. The entire exhibit is part of an ongoing partnership with the Colorado Center for the Blind in Littleton.

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Ann Cunningham with one of her sculpted pieces that visitors are encouraged to touch and feel. (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)

Lakewood Artist Ann Cunningham started stone carving when she was 15 years old, but it wasn’t until ten years later that she started using slate. She says she chose slate as the foundation for most of her work because its fine structure holds delicate detail, which gives her a broad palette for visual and tactile expression. Slate can be finished so smoothly it is sometimes described as “soft” and lends itself to tactile experience without risk of damage. Cunningham connects her work to science by using subjects from nature.  

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Nathan Abels and students from Arapahoe Community College collaborated on mixed media pieces like this one, which includes a laser-cut ink drawing, ceramics, and a poem in Braille and regular text. (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)

Abels is from Evergreen. His work typically takes the form of paintings and drawings, with an emphasis, he says, on landscape, atmosphere, and reduction. For this collaborative exhibit, the students created ink drawings based on short poems, which were then laser cut and accompanied by ceramic models of the same subject. The creative works involved ceramics students, drawing students, and the help of many others at the college.

Cunningham's slate carvings and the mixed media artwork presented by Abels and the Arapahoe Community College students will be on display in the NCAR Community Art Gallery at the Mesa Lab now through November. Employees and the public are encouraged to check out the exhibits and enjoy the wonderful works of art on display.  

A public art reception celebrating the tactile exhibit will be held at the Mesa Lab on Saturday, November 12, 1-3 p.m. All are welcome to attend.

You may also preview all artists' work on the website of the NCAR Community Art Program.

Rebecca Swisher, Internal Communications Specialist