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Please Touch! Sculptures By Blind Native Artist Michael Naranjo are a Multisensory Experience

May 20th, 2022

Please Touch! Sculptures By Blind Native Artist Michael Naranjo are a Multisensory Experience

Touchable exhibition of artist Michael Naranjo’s work is at The Rockwell Museum through October 30


CORNING, NY | A new exhibition that opened Saturday, May 7, at The Rockwell Museum is accessible to everyone, including the blind and visually impaired. The public is invited to the opening reception on May 20, 5:30 – 7 p.m.; register at to attend.


Please Touch! The Art of Michael Naranjo, invites visitors to experience remarkable bronze sculptures with sight, touch and sound.  Created by renowned Native American artist Michael Naranjo (Santa Clara Pueblo), who was blinded in Vietnam, the sculptures are touchable so that visitors with limited or no vision can experience and appreciate the art as the artist would.


“We know our visitors will welcome this rare opportunity to touch the bronzes in this special exhibition! Museums constantly reinforce ‘Do not touch’ and it is exciting to invite audiences to feel Naranjo’s sculptures,” says Kirsty Buchanan, curator of exhibitions and collections.


Rockwell curatorial and education staff worked with Christopher Lomax and Kathleen Dinwoodie for advice on accessible installations in The Rockwell galleries. The exhibition includes narrated audio labels, as well as Braille text available at the Museum Admission desk.


Naranjo grew up in Taos, New Mexico, where his mother Rose Naranjo was a noted pottery artist. While serving in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War in 1968, Michael Naranjo suffered near-fatal combat injuries in a grenade blast. With a total loss of his vision and the loss of use of his right hand, Naranjo during his convalescence began to sculpt clay with his left hand. Eventually that pursuit led him to a professional career as a sculptor whose works are highly admired.


Please Touch! features approximately 30 sculptures that span the artist’s 50-year sculpting career, including depictions of birds and animals in realistic poses, people in motion and mythical creatures.


Of his work, Naranjo explains, “Over the years, my blindness has made me realize that, for me, the feeling of the piece becomes more important than intricate detail. My work is representational. The patina I choose for my bronzes is matte black, which has become my trademark, as this is the color I see…Having been denied access to art in many places over the years has led me to the decision to have my work displayed in public places to be seen and touched, when possible, and to be enjoyed by others.”


Works in this exhibition are courtesy of Tia Collection, Santa Fe, New Mexico and Michael and Laurie Naranjo with special thanks to the Eiteljorg Museum. This exhibition is made possible in part by the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes, Inc.



About The Rockwell Museum: A Smithsonian Affiliate


The Rockwell Museum, in association with the Smithsonian Institution, collection tells the story of the American experience through a display of stunning art about America. Founded in 1976, The Rockwell is an evolving community center which showcases the best of America through compelling exhibitions and imaginative programs.  The diverse collection includes a mix of contemporary Native American art with traditional bronze sculptures, landscape paintings and other works that embody America. Housed in the beautifully restored 19th century Old City Hall building, The Rockwell is active in the local community and holds special events and educational programming with area public schools. The Rockwell provokes curiosity, engagement and reflection about art and the American experience.


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The Rockwell Museum’s programs are made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

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