Arts & Culture » Visual Art

Boise Artist's 'Tangible' Works Can Be Felt as Much as Seen

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- Judson Cottrell began 3-D printing fractal art earlier this year. -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Judson Cottrell began 3-D printing fractal art earlier this year.
Tucked away in the corner of a corner gallery at the Alaska Building, Judson Cottrell's First Thursday exhibition wasn't immediately visible to visitors, which was fitting in a way—Cottrell's work isn't just for the sighted.

"Most art you can't touch," he said. "People who are totally blind can't appreciate it."

Cottrell was born legally blind and admits he "can't draw to save [his] life." That hasn't stopped him from expressing himself through art. Since 2009, Cottrell has been using a computer program to make fractal art, which relies on algorithms to create visuals.

Wanting to make art that could be felt as much as seen, he began 3-D printing pieces with David Ultis of Citizens Scientific Workshop earlier this summer. The curves, dips, ridges and whorls of Cottrell's pieces make them accessible to people who, like himself, have visual impairments.

His work has caught the attention of the National Federation of the Blind, and Cottrell said his work will appear in a five-minute video on the organization's website. In addition, four of his pieces will hang on the wall outside the office of the administrator for the Idaho Commission for the Blind. In the new year, Cottrell plans to begin 3-D printing his own art using a printer purchased with an Alexa Rose Foundation grant.



Though legally blind, Cottrell is partially sighted: Objects up close are visible, but things blur quickly as they get farther away. The result is a geometric quality to the world as he sees it, which is reflected in his work.

"Me coming downtown with the big florescent lights—it's like a big Christmas tree," he said.