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Artist Refuses to Let Blindness Derail Her Career - Wall Street Journal

Sculptor Emilie Gossiaux is exhibiting her work and teaching at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Making it as an artist in New York City is hard enough.

Sculptor and museum educator Emilie Gossiaux has an additional hurdle: She can’t see.

In 2010 Ms. Gossiaux, then an art student at Cooper Union, was hit by an 18-wheeler truck while riding her bike to an internship in Brooklyn. The accident nearly killed her, leaving her blind and facing an uncertain future.

Six years later the 26-year-old, who is also hearing-impaired, lives solo on the Upper East Side and is pushing forward in a field where sight is usually considered a prerequisite.

Several days a week Ms. Gossiaux works on her sculptures at the Long Island City studio of Daniel Arsham, the artist for whom she was interning at the time of the accident. Her work—spare, often playful pieces of stoneware, plaster and papier-mâché—has been shown in group and partner exhibitions in New York, Washington, D.C., California and London.

Ms. Gossiaux is also a freelance educator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She teaches a drawing class for people with visual impairments and leads tours, often with her guide dog, London, in tow.

One gallery talk focused on a 17th-century Dutch still-life depicting the remains of an oyster banquet.

Ms. Gossiaux, who loves the genre but hasn’t seen this work, talked about it based on descriptions from others and on a tactile line drawing of the painting.

The participants, who were sighted, discussed the painting based on sensory perceptions, such as what the sounds or smells in the room might have been like. As they talked, educators passed around objects like those in the paintings: oyster shells, a lemon, a knife and a silver platter.

“Someone said they could taste the salt from the oysters,” Ms. Gossiaux said. “We included the touch objects so they could have this sort of multisensory experience. Because that’s how I experienced the painting.”

Blindness isn’t the first challenge Ms. Gossiaux has faced. Growing up outside New Orleans, she began wearing hearing aids at age 5.

She enrolled at Cooper Union in 2007, immersing herself in painting and sculpture, and taking classes in printmaking and sound and video art.

At the time of the accident, Ms. Gossiaux had taken a semester off to recover from cochlear-implant surgery. She awoke from a coma unable to see or hear.

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