Hereford & Worcester

An art exhibition you can touch

Martin Dorey Image copyright Heather Bowring
Image caption Bowring met Martin Dorey by chance on a beach early one morning. "We just got chatting," she said.

Paintings to be touched as well as seen have gone on display at a show inspired by an elderly lady whose blindness meant she could no longer enjoy art.

The portraits, by artist Heather Bowring, are painted with plaster and finished with several coats of varnish.

Bowring said she developed her method when she discovered there was nowhere people could physically feel art.

The exhibition, "I am not who you think I am", is currently at Hereford Museum and Art Gallery.

Image copyright Heather Bowring
Image caption Susan Campbell Duncan has severe facial disfigurements following cancer surgery she had as a baby

"The people I chose for this collection were taken from TV, newspapers, magazines and one a chance meeting," Bowring said.

"I then imagined a café and all these people were sat in it. If you walked in and either because they were old, or very young, or had a facial disfigurement, you did not engage in conversation - think of all that you have missed."

Image copyright Heather Bowring
Image caption Nicola MacKenzie, 16, had a kidney transplant when she was 13 and is now a competitive swimmer

Bowring said: "When I taught myself to paint 10 years ago, I met an elderly lady in an art gallery.

"She said her greatest sadness was that she had lost her sight and she could no longer enjoy art.

"In my naivety I asked her where she could go to touch art and her reply was 'nowhere my dear, you are not allowed to touch anything'".

Image copyright Heather Bowring
Image caption Mary Ellis, 95, was a spitfire pilot in World War Two

The 16 tactile relief portraits feature a cross-section of society, Bowring said.

She added: "I want to challenge the initial assumptions we make about each other based purely on visual observation, rather than knowledge gained through verbal communication."

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