“We cannot achieve sustainable development and make the planet better for all if people are excluded from the chance for a better life,” mentions the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for Reduced Inequalities. These disparities extend to issues of disability. Against this backdrop, Clarke Reynolds emerges as an advocate for those underprivileged by loss of sight, using his art as a platform for its advancement.

Clarke Reynolds is a 40-year-old braille artist who lost sight in his right eye when he was a child. In his early 30s, he was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa. This deteriorating eyesight forced him to abandon his previous career, leading him to ultimately find solace and purpose in becoming an artist.

Reynolds' art is dedicated to fostering accessibility for the underprivileged, aiming to demonstrate that art transcends mere visual perception. “I found out that I wanted my art to be experienced by everyone no matter their visual impairment, so my art is fully accessible through sound and touch,” says Reynolds. This severely sighted person works in words and calls himself a braille typographer. He uses enlarged, vibrant dots in braille format, inviting touch and visual exploration within his art.

Unlike conventional braille, Reynolds devised a colour-coded system to enable sighted individuals to learn braille. When visitors enter Reynolds' gallery, they receive a braille code to decipher the artwork. By decoding the patterns and colours, they can match the patterns and colours with the corresponding artwork. He designed his artworks this way not only to make art accessible to everyone but also to ensure that his art can be touched by those with sight and to create meaningful conversations.

Reynolds wants people to realize how beautiful braille can be. “I describe to people that it’s like looking underwater; you see shapes and shadows and glimpses of colour. I also say it’s like looking through a thousand dots - hence my attraction to dots in my art, and now those dots mean something,” mentions Windows of the Soul.

In January 2023, Reynolds unveiled his inaugural braille solo exhibition, the result of 18 months of intensive research exploring braille as a visual language. With the code in hand, attendees can walk around and decode each piece of art while learning and remembering Braille. These artworks have raised dots so that visually impaired people can touch them, allowing them to engage with the art on an equal footing. The exhibition had 26 canvases, each crafted to represent a word corresponding to a letter of the alphabet, and the dots define the word. Also, each canvas was in the color associated with its respective letter, turning it into a self-portrait in words. 

Alphabet by Clarke Reynolds. Image courtesy of Windows of the Soul.

Through this creation, Alphabet, Reynolds skillfully bridged the gap between what we see and what we touch, catering to both sighted and non-sighted individuals. He created a visual colour-coded language inspired by the braille pattern and assigned a distinct colour to each letter. By making the connection, the mind is prompted to learn the patterns through the visual cues of colour. Alphabet serves as a channel for individuals without sight by inviting them to engage with the artwork through touch, enabling them to decode its underlying messages. 

Braille Self-Portrait by Clarke Reynolds. Image courtesy of Windows of the Soul.

Through Braille Self-Portrait, Reynolds emphasizes his idea, "To see my face, you have to read my face." This artwork holds significant value as it vividly illustrates how the artist perceives himself when gazing into the mirror – a fragmented image composed of myriad dots. The braille inscription within the piece conveys the artist's personal narrative: "My name is Clarke, and I’m blind, but also a visual artist using braille as my artistic language; how I see is like looking through a thousand dots opening your eyes underwater know those dots mean something as you touch my art to decode how I see image face through words."

Reference Photo of Braille Self-Portrait. Image courtesy of Windows of the Soul.

Art galleries often lack suitable accommodations for visually impaired individuals, limiting their enjoyment of visual art. In addressing this issue, Reynolds not only provides a solution but goes a step beyond. His initiative extends to those unfamiliar with braille, enabling them to actively participate in the artistic experience. For those facing disadvantages, touching the art is the way to engage with it. Reynolds's efforts to bridge the gap between individuals with and without vision foster a closer connection and enhance the overall enjoyment of artistic expressions for both communities.

Language by Clarke Reynolds. Image courtesy of Windows of the Soul.





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