Guest post by Stella De Genova: Blind at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

March 30, 2016 • Posted in blindness, guest blog, Uncategorized by
That's me lounging on the ruby red couch shaped like lips that Stella mentions in her guest post.

There I am lounging on the ruby red couch shaped like lips — Stella mentions it in her guest post.

Three cheers for the Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium! Thanks to the CCAC and the Contemporary Museum of Art Chicago, the Chicago History Museum, Gift Theater and Steppenwolf Theater I was able to take advantage of not just one, not two, but three different special audio touch tours for people who are blind or visually impaired last week. So many tours, so little time…I can’t write about them all!

Later this week I’ll be publishing a post about the sensational audio/touch tour I went to on Sunday afternoon before Richard III at Steppenwolf Theatre. Today, Stella De Genova, a blind blogger who was on the same Pop Art Design tour I took at Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago last Wednesday has generously offered to write a guest post for Safe & Sound from her point of, ahem, view. Stella was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) in childhood. RP is an eye disease where vision declines slowly over time, and even after being declared legally blind in her late twenties, she has continued to paint pastels using magnification under controlled lighting. You can see her work online at art by Stella DG.

by Stella De Genova

I have to be honest, I’m not a big contemporary art fan. I’ve only been to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA) one other time with my son to visit the David Bowie exhibit. You don’t have to be a contemporary art aficionado to enjoy David!

My favorite art museum is the Art Institute of Chicago. I’ve wandered the galleries there since I was in high school. It’s hard for me to maneuver on my own now, but I still go there accompanied by my husband or a sighted guide, which the museum offers.

We immediately think of Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup screenprints when we think of pop art, but as I found out on our MCA tour last week, there is so much more. Pop art and design evolved from the 1960’s and ‘70’s, possibly the most eruptive, empowering, fast-paced and far from mundane decades in our modern history. The art of this tumultuous era reflects its surprise, brilliance and lighter side.

Pop Artists took everyday objects and ideas and turned them into fun and functional art that in many cases, could be mass produced. Since it stems from commonplace objects and people that most of us are familiar with, it was an easy form for those of us with visual impairments to experience. Even the exhibit pieces we were not allowed to touch were easy to imagine, thanks to the colorful descriptions given by our tour director. Susan Musich, Programmer for Education and Interpretive Practices at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago led our tour and explained that the idea was to take minor form and turn it into major function. She described Warhol’s Jackie Kennedy, Chairman Mao and Campbell Soup prints. She also talked us through the concept of bringing the outside in with Warhol’s “cow’s head” wallpaper, a sculptured cactus coat hanger, lights that looked like rocks and the “Protone” sculptural lounge, made out of a bendable plastic-foam material that resembled huge blades of bright green grass.

We walked through an array of chairs and sofas that were shaped like feet, the top of a Greek column and a pair of vibrant red lips. We weren’t allowed to touch these actual art pieces but the MCA commissioned furniture makers to create facsimiles for patrons to touch, sit on and experience. I got to touch and sit on the chaise lounge that resembled the top of a Greek column. I know columns are made out of concrete or marble and so I expected the chair to be hard but instead, it was firm but soft – like a leather cushion. I got to sit on the sofa that was in the shape of a set of giant red lips, too. This had a nylon feel to it and was very soft and quite comfy.

Thanks to Blind Service Association for putting together this tour and thanks to MCA and our guide, who was not only respectful of our needs and wants but certainly made our day at the museum enlightening and fun. I may still lean more toward the traditional fine arts but this tour gave me a real respect and affection for pop art and design, and I dare say, I will be back to visit the MCA again.

Tina Franziska Paulick On March 30, 2016 at 5:22 am

Sounds like great fun. I love the sofa. It would be cool if they could sent this imitation furniture on a worldwide road show.

bethfinke On March 30, 2016 at 8:49 am

You know, I wonder what they *are* doing with the furniture now that the show has closed…?


Tina Franziska Paulick On March 31, 2016 at 5:47 am

Especially because it’s not a permanent exhibition. Maybe they could really show it in different places, at least in the US. Moving it to Europe is probably asking a bit too much. But it would be a pitty just to store it away somewhere. Looks like I have to visit Chicago some day.

bethfinke On March 31, 2016 at 7:19 am

I’ll ask. And yes, you *do* have to visit someday, Tina!


Andrea Kelton On March 30, 2016 at 6:31 am

Thanks for capturing the essence of this enlightening, informative, fun tour!

visionthroughwords On March 30, 2016 at 9:08 am

Andrea, thanks for inviting me! If not for your invitation, I would have missed out on a fun museum day.

Pam Berman On March 30, 2016 at 7:40 am

Very nice! I’m not a big art buff myself, but I do admire Stella De Genova. I also think of Andy Warhol when I think of contemporary art & Warhol + Stella’s good word= fun, exciting & something I’d like to experience.

visionthroughwords On March 30, 2016 at 9:10 am

Thanks Pam, and next MCA excursion, you’re coming along!

Pat Fraser On March 30, 2016 at 9:16 am

Thanks so much for the kind words. It was such a treat to welcome the Blind Services Association for the first time. Thanks for being part of our learning! As Director of Visitor Experience, I followed the tour and truly enjoyed the insights of the crew. We look forward to our next big opening…. the Kerry James Marshall exhibition. It’s a pleasure to have a Chicagoan on display (after April 23). We will let you know when we can arrange a tour. Again…so great to have you and thanks for the written love!

visionthroughwords On March 30, 2016 at 10:19 am

It was a good experience on both ends. We look forward to more!

bethfinke On March 30, 2016 at 10:28 am

And for those of you who are wondering –visionthroughwords is Stella de Genova’s “pen name.” The comments here from visionthroughwords are those of today’s fabulous guest blogger.


Monna Ray On March 30, 2016 at 11:37 am


I believe Stella’s visit to the MCA made all us more appreciative of contemporary art. Thanks for asking her, Beth.


John Simonds On March 30, 2016 at 11:46 am

Beth…I return to Chicago tomorrow. When is the next opportunity to rejoin my writing group.

bethfinke On March 30, 2016 at 9:42 pm

I appreciate that you enjoy your time in Mexico, John, but….we miss you in our memoir-writing class.
The next Monday memoir class at Lincoln Park Village starts Monday, April 18, and there’s still time to sign up. I hope you will.

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