You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Raising awareness about living with vision loss happens here on Adventures in Low Vision. I learn skills and alternative ways of doing things to live well and share my experiences. Along this journey I meet people adapting behaviors and attitudes to thrive with a disability. As more people talk in public about living with blindness, living with any disability, my friend Joy from Double Vision says, “we’re part of a growing movement!” I agree. We abandon  shame and embrace our disabilities, seeking fulfillment over approval.

Educating others by yourself is rewarding. As a group, it’s dynamic. This summer, Stephanae from Bold Blind Beauty launched a campaign to break barriers and dispel misconceptions of blindness. It’s called #AbbyOnTheMove. Across social media platforms, people are using the #AbbyOnTheMove tag to share their experiences. Check it out.

Recently I added my voice to the mix when I visited the Baltimore Museum of Art. Low vision doesn’t stop me from enjoying paintings and sculptures.

Susan standing on the stone steps leading to the entrance of the BMA

It was a steamy day, temperatures reached well into the 90s. With relief, Stockton and I entered the air-conditioned space. Another treat: the museum is free to the public. Stockton grabbed a map at the reception area, but I had already looked online, zooming in as needed. I wanted to explore the Cone Collection of Modern Art on Level Two. What can I say, I’m a sucker for Impressionism. After a quick disagreement on whether we were already on Level Two, we took off. With my white cane leading me, we found the correct location. I walked from painting to painting making sure I wasn’t leaning in too far and threatening any of the artwork. For details like small figures or noting layers of paint, I use my monocular to study pieces. I love the hush of a gallery.

Susan studies Cezanne artwork with monocular at the Baltimore Museum of Art
After the collection inside, onto the sculpture garden outside. We braved the heat and walked over to the enclosed area next to the museum. As we neared a set of iron gates, Stockton said, “Uh, oh, these are padlocked.”

Close up of padlock

We walked around to another entrance, locked as well. I stared forlornly through the bars, seeing twisted metal shapes ahead. The lush landscaping looked so inviting. A respite from the busy overheated city, it was not to be.

Susan frowning Standing Outside the locked gates at the sculpture gardens

This is the part where I could let disappointment and anger ruin my day and I could rant here. I chose not to. Stockton queued up the museums info desk. I cradled the phone and listened when a nice and professional employee greeted me. I asked him if the sculpture garden was closed. He responded, with less spirit, indeed it was closed today, “due to the excessive heat.” I thanked him and disconnected with a shrug.

I wanted to visit the sculpture garden for its beauty and to learn. Researching pre-trip on the museum’s website, I discovered the BMA produced an audio tour discussing each sculpture as well as the design and care of the gardens. It’s available here on iTunes U.

Screenshot of the BMA Sculpture Garden tour on iTunes U

List of files within the audio tour of the BMA sculpture garden

I downloaded it, ready to listen until I was kept out by the iron gates. Or was I out of luck? I could still listen to the audio tour anywhere, anytime. Once home, I listened to the tour from the comfort of my porch swing using my imagination. Sometimes you can’t break down every barrier when you face real locked doors, but you can still find a way to enjoy things.

Screenshot of About Garden file, blue background with black wriiting says Baltimore Museum of Art

Have you visited the Baltimore Museum of Art? Is your local museum accessible? Do you explore sculpture gardens? What is your favorite artwork? Tell me about it.


18 Comments Add yours

  1. floridaborne says:

    Glad you got to enjoy some of it.

    1. For a Floridian like you, the heat wouldn’t be abnormal!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Susan I’m not at all surprised by your ability to still enjoy your experience even though the sculpture area was closed. I loved this metaphor for areas we find locked in our lives. Also, this gives you a great excuse to return to that museum on a cooler day! I’ll have to check it out when I visit Baltimore in the future.


    1. So true, Jenelle. Visit soon : )

  3. Very interesting post. I have visited the Yorksire Sculpture Park , Barbara Hepworth’s House and gardens in St Ives, Cornwall and a Henry Moore exhibition of sculpture at Kew Gardens in London. In Yorksire the public were not allowed to touch the sculpture. I understand the reasons for this but find it frustrating with such a tactile form of art. At Kew children were running around and peering through the sculptures, exploring shapes, texture and form. Would love to visit Baltimore. What was your favourite painting?

    1. Some museums here will let you touch the sculptures if you are part of a prearranged tour. It usually means calling at least two weeks in advance and requesting a tour for a person with a visual impairment.
      Stockton and I visited the Met in NYC and they allow you to touch ancient Egyptian pieces but only if you’re holding a special card that ID’s you as visually impaired. Imagine me with tears running down my cheeks in the middle of the space as I touched a sarcophagus with hieroglyphics. It was unreal.

      Hmm. My fav painting at the BMA is probably the one I was looking at with my monocular, Paul Cézanne. Mont Sainte‑Victoire Seen from the Bibémus Quarry.

      As for my fav painting at large, Monet’s The Japanese Footbridge and Van Gogh’s Haystacks in Provence, Wheatfield with Cypresses, Starry Night, etc. I love Van Gogh haystacks and Monet water lillies, ha.
      I would like to experience the sculpture park areas you mentioned.

      How about you, Bridge? What’s your fav painting?

  4. Lovely reply. Thank you. My favourite artist is probably Cezanne! So many versions of Mont Ste Victoire. And I find I can still see most of what he paints. However, the water lilies are Wonderful and I have seen versions of these as well as visiting Monet’s garden at Giverney and standing on the Japanese bridge and .seeing the actual pond. I also love some of the Spanish painters, especially Velazquez and Goya. Nowadays colour and form attract me more than soft Impressionism. Touching the Egyptian hieroglyphics must have been very moving. Years ago I went to the Valley of the Kings and down the Nile. It is awe inspiring to walk among so much ancient civilisation …full of grandeur but also depicting very domestic and human life. I hate the destruction that is happening now. Thank goodness for museums.

    1. You are such a world traveler. Will you ever write about some of your previous travels? My parents visited Giverney in the spring and I was so eager to know about the gardens. Now when I do get to visit them myself one day I will be able to remember you were there, too!
      Colour and form have become more intriguing to me too with my low vision. I forgot, I do have a soft spot for some art pieces at the Tate. One that comes to mind b/c of the shape is Claes Oldenburg’s Counter and Plates with Potato and Ham

  5. Oh, now I will have to go back to the Tate and look for the Oldenburg because I don’t know it! When we went to Giverney, I taught my American cousins and their small French/American children to play Pooj Sticks on the little bridge over the stream (from the Winnie the Pooh books) Each person drops a stick in the water one side of the bridge then rushes to the other side to see who wins. Very competitive! When you get there give it a go and keep up the tradition. The Try and get there early in the morning before the crowds. Definitely a place for the bucket list and a feast for people with low vision. I love travel but it’s such a patchwork experience I don’t know how to write about it. Great memories though. I’m going to Portugal for the first time next week..only for a week. Susan and husband, hurry on over..Europe is calling you.

    1. What a fun little tradition on a bridge. Enjoy your travels to Portugal, I’m sure you will have many adventures. It’s only a matter of time (and budgeting!) until my husband and I travel to Europe again.

  6. johnmill79 says:

    Well of course I just recently went to Biltmore. I felt their audio tour made it vastly more interesting than it would have been otherwise. This gave me the crazy idea that I want to see what other museums offer such tours. I suppose the idea is gaining in popularity as even sighted folk want to know more of the extended background. There are still very few tactile exhibits, because touch is taken to do so much damage, but perhaps audio can begin to significantly bridge the gap.

    1. A good audio tour can be like the most knowledgable tour guide and really enhances a visit. I visited Biltmore a few years ago and the audio tour helped me learn so much more. What a wild,massive building to walk around in and image life there. I enjoyed the gardens a lot more ha.

      1. johnmill79 says:

        Yeah, we were gonna look at that, but the rains came. It is amazing to imagine actually living there.

      2. Twenty families could live there comfortably, so crazy, at least from my minimalist leaning self ha.

  7. Reblogged this on Bold Blind Beauty and commented:
    We Are On The Move!! Thanks Susan!

      1. Thank you for the excellent article!!

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