Art for the Blind


In the Uffizi Gallery, in Florence, has a Touch Tour, for the visually impaired. In addition to sculptures that can be touched, there are three-dimensional representations of some of the pieces, including Boticelli’s The Birth of Venus.

Standing in front of the majestic piece, we could simultaneously feel the winds showering her with roses and see them in full color. Her coy attempt to cover herself seemed every more futile under our curious fingers.

Of course, we recognize writing and painting as art; most of us can literally and metaphorically see the similarities. However, touch yields similarities in line and form.

Consider the following vivid visual descriptions of “The Blind Woman” by Ted Kooser:

Her brown shoes splashed on
into the light. The moment was like
a circus wagon rolling before her
through puddles of light, a cage on wheels,
and she walked fast behind it,
exuberant, curious, pushing her cane
through the bars, poking and prodding,
while the world cowered back in a corner.
  • Read the start of the poem at; you can also listen to the piece at the same site. Describe your favorite color or time of day as if you are delivering it to a person who cannot perceive it with her eyes.



I loved several childhood books above the rest: Little Bear, A New Home for Snowball, Mommy’s Little Helper, and the Child’s Garden of Bible Stories. Each of these books was as visually engaging as the narratives within. And, the lessons I learned about helping and kindness and fairness and storytelling shaped my friendships as much as my writing.

So when I first set eyes on Michelangelo’s The David—first the replica in the Palazzo della Signoria and then the original housed in the Galleria dell’Academia (Accademia Gallery) —I recalled the tale of David and Goliath that followed the Garden of Eden and Exodus and the plentiful illustrations to help young readers.

Marveling at David’s towering and pale body, such a stark contrast to, for example, Donatello’s diminutive bronze interpretation, I am perplexed by how much more colossal, how monstrous, how goliath! Michelangelo’s Goliath might be.

In fact, David’s unabashed stance and nudity make me question whether Michelangelo read a different tale than I. According to my Little Garden, David was clothed and about the same age and size as I.

Speaking of Michelangelo, it is February, and I can’t help thinking of TS Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and his repeated lines: “in the room the women come and go / Talking of Michelangelo.”

Ai Weiwei: Political Art


According to Bertolt Brecht, “Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.”

We could not know we were headed into Ai Weiwei’s brain from the lifeboats hanging from the Palazzo Strozzi. We knew, of course, the rubber boats represented the plight of refugees. We knew of Ai Weiwei’s reputation as a dissident, as a prisoner, as a spokesperson for justice and against corruption and censorship.

However, we were overcome with his grief, rage, and  agitation as we were delivered into his hippocampus. We recognized its horseshoe shape and how the monumental installations we encountered there helped him–and us–to process history and emotion.

In the second piece, Snake Bag, he sewed 360 backpacks to represent 360 children killed at a school when an earthquake in China’s Sichuan province killed approximately 90,000 people; as visible in the companion video that shows the recovery of the inadequate rebar, the massive destruction was due to the government cutting corners on construction.

In another series, we see Ai Weiwei’s left middle finger extended to the White House, the Eiffel Tower, Hong Kong, Tiananmen Square, and the Mona Lisa, among others; these pieces are title A Study in Perspective. His perspective is clear. He even has wallpaper that also has patterns of middle fingers.

An ivory porcelain plot of flowers is centered in the middle of one of the rooms. These flowers represent his rebellion against censorship, surveillance, and control. He further addresses restrictions he faced by recreating the surveillance cameras (in marble), handcuffs (in wood), and hangers (from his imprisonment, in wood).

Film, selfies, pamphlets, 32 Qing Dynasty stools assembled into a circle, 3200 porcelain crabs, Lego portraits of Dante Alighieri and Galileo Galilei and three self-portraits (also in Legos) further intensify the multimedia experience.

I am inspired by this tour of Ai Weiwei’s brain and heart. I am reminded that, especially in the face of oppression and restriction, we must use all of the resources we have at hand to fight for what is right. Art can be mirror, hammer, souvenir, warning, flare, lighthouse, tank, lifeboat…


The Mask of Evil

by Bertolt Brecht

On my wall hangs a Japanese carving,

The mask of an evil demon, decorated with gold lacquer.
Sympathetically I observe

The swollen veins of the forehead, indicating

What a strain it is to be evil.

  • Ai Weiwei’s installations and representations function as Brecht’s “mask of evil.” What does your character/speaker have or make to remind her of “what a strain it is to be evil?”


Dublin Castle at Christmas

It is week ten of the semester, and we are on the brink of spring. This is the point in the term where the speed picks up, and what felt like racewalking suddenly turns into a jog to Spring Break and then a frantic sprint to the end.

This weekend I am scanning photos of Christmas as though the length of time is as vast as the distance from here to Dublin. I am grateful for having timed my visit to encounter a castle elaborately decorated for Christmas, for the generous sun shining on the labyrinth and gardens, for the the luxury of history and the venue of a gallery to learn more of Ireland’s bombings and terrorism. I am grateful for the joy and safety I enjoy even at the end of a long winter.

Indeed it has been a long winter full of hard lessons and interesting work. I just have to  pause to remember where I am going and where I have been. Speaking of week ten, the creative writing students are blogging.

Daily Bread 400:

Blissful Binge:

Passions of 8:

World of Actions & Reactions:

All Things Dreamy:

Please follow them, like them, and tell your friends about these diligent and creative writers.

Looking for writing inspiration, take a look at:



“We could not sew a sun”

It is Sunday morning, and I have only a few pesos, my iPhone, and the keys to the posada in my pocket. After an hour of walking in Llano Park, I decide that I am not done strolling, and so I wander while considering a list of places I haven’t visited recently. The Textile Museum rises to the top. I have high expectations from my last few visits.

I arrive as they open; there is only one other visitor in the whole place. She is a different kind of tourist than I. She has studied and planned for what she will see; moving slowly, she carries a list and a notebook into which she scribbles furiously.

My experience is affected by her palpable judgment for my lack of preparation, for how swiftly I pass some of the (important) pieces, for how aimlessly I seem to linger over (stirring) others. I want to suggest that we, like divorced parents, try to share custody without animosity; instead, I decide to view the exhibit out of order to avoid a showdown.

Now alone in the main gallery, I want to whoop as I come across a particularly breathtaking quilt, each square of it stuns with simplicity. Though it is composed of coloring book clean images, it reminds me of a primer I had for learning penmanship that depicted flawless lines and graceful curves.

I cannot deny that I feel impotent in the presence of all of this beauty; I admit that the other visitor was right. I have neither the materials nor the skills to devour this show.

From The Art Room

–Shara McCallum

for my sisters

Because we did not have threads
of turquoise, silver, and gold,
we could not sew a sun nor sky.
And our hands became balls of fire.
And our arms spread open like wings.

Read the rest at:

  • Acting teacher F. Jo Murdoch points out: Bette Davis always had something in her hand: a cigarette, a cup of coffee, so her character’s feelings were depicted in her physical actions. Communicate emotion through physical actions, interaction with another person, or deficit as in McCallum’s piece.

Nieves – Ice cream


More than fifty flavors are advertised at the Manolo Nieves, a self-described ice cream museum in Oaxaca.  Take that Baskin-Robbins!

I had the Peppermint and mint, pictured above.  I also bought a Oaxacan chocolate cone for the man who plays the accordion at the top of Alcala every day.  No matter that I walk up and down the street MULTIPLE times a day, he hits me up for change coming and going.  I usually give his son some fruit or something equally sweet.  No money.

I have grown to think of the accordion players as trolls that want a toll every time I cross over the bridge (I guess I am a billy goat).  Anyway, today I discovered the best payment is an ice cream cone.  It is refreshing for the poor man playing his heavy instrument in the afternoon sun.  And, it makes him both stop playing and put down the bowl to collect coins.  It’s a little break in a delicious cone.

Nieves Gourmet – Gourmet Ice Cream

Monolo – Toffee

Sorbete – Sorbet

Maracuya con crema – Passionfruit and cream

Fresas con crema – Strawbrries and cream

Pétalos de rosa – Rose petals

Melón con crema – Cantaloupe with cream

Limón con crema – Lemon with cream

Arroz con leche – Rice with milk

Cajete – Caramel

Tres leches – Three milks

Trozos de pistache con crema – Pistachio

Chocolate con avellana y licor – Chocolate with hazelnuts and liquor

Chocolate con almendras – Chocolate with almonds

Zarzamora – Blackberry

Mezcal – Mezcal

Nanche – Nanche

Mamey –Mamey

Tequila – Tequila

Kiwi – Kiwi

Higo con Mezcal – Fig with Mezcal

Piña Colada – Piña Colada


Las Tradicionales – The Traditional Flavors

Nuez – Pecan

Tuna – Cactus

Tejate – Cacao foam

Sorbete – Sorbet

Chocolate oaxaqueño – Oaxacan chocolate

Pétalos de rosa – Rose petals

Leche quemada – Scalded milk

Coco – Coconut

Vainilla – Vanilla

Capuchino – Cappuccino


Exóticas – Exotic Flavors

Maracuya con mezcal – Passionfruit and mezcal

Pera con chili piquin – Pear and chili

Pepino con limón – Cucumber and lemon

Cilantro con pepino – Cilantro and cucumber

Hierba buena con menta – Peppermint and mint

Epazote con chapulín – Epazote (yuck) with grasshopper

Tamarindo con chapulín – Tamarind and grasshopper

Papaya con canela y miel – Papaya with cinnamon and honey

Plátano macho con crema – Plantain and cream


Para Refrescarte – To Refresh Yourself

Maracuya – Passionfruit

Uva – Grape

Naranja – Orange

Tuna – Cactus

Zapote – Sapodilla

Limón – Lemon

Tamarindo – Tamarind

Mango – Mango

Mandarina – Mandarin

Jamaica – Hibiscus

Melón – Cantaloupe

Piña – Pineapple

Chocolate de agua – Hot chocolate

Guanábana – Soursop

Ciruela istmeña – Isthmus plum



New Art


New art arrived on the fringe of Santo Domingo Church’s vast plaza. The new pieces match (in style and color) a larger piece (a dragonfly, I think) just outside of the contemporary art museum. But there’s no information on where to learn more or by whom they were created or, most importantly to me, whether it’s kosher to climb up on the back of the little red pony.

I need information like this.

art3 art2