As we are discovering, hands send messages. Artists exploit hands as they are probably (along with eyes) the most expressive part of our bodies. You saw the other day how skillfully Gabe Leonard exploited hands to deliver his various messages. The image of some hands are easy to interpret especially if they are part of our daily social life. There is no ambiguity about what Nicole Roggeman was suggesting with these young hands.
How they appear and what they are used for, holding a loved one, comfort anger? We know the hands of men and women differ but do artists show them in different ways? Certainly not when wanting to convey the love a mother or a grandmother has for a child. These two paintings depict a common pose and placement of hands. The first is Grandmother with Little Emma, little Emma being the Swedish artist Emma Ekwall as a young child. What I love about this painting as it pertains to hands is the placement of her grandmother's hand on the book whilst holding onto her glasses. A delightful touch which implies a very significant message about the relationship between the child and her grandmother. Without this the painting would not have the same impact on the careful viewer who has noticed this subtle message.
But what is the message being conveyed in The Old Man's Hand by Oklahoma artist Sam Sidders? Is the hand clenched in pain? Gripped in determination? Curled by arthritis? The placement on the knee is important. If the hand was still in this attitude but held higher it might imply aggression or force.
(Credit: Fine Art America)
Thanks to E in London we began examining in an earlier blog the remarkable statues that combine to create Vigeland Park in Oslo, Norway. This is the world's largest sculpture park made by a single artist namely Gustav Vigeland (1869–1943) who created his figures in bronze, granite and cast iron. Take a few minutes to study the woman's expression and placement of her hand. What do you think she is thinking? I imagine there will be different answers to this depending on our own experiences.
I think a hand up to the mouth implies uncertainty, concern, contemplation, perhaps a lack of confidence. Perhaps this gesture is a response to the awe of seeing into the future. A hand on a shoulder is usually a sign of comfort as shown below. These are all familiar gestures that we all perform each day. Stop for a moment and consider the meanings behind them.
And this is Sinnataggen (irate child) also from Vigeland Park. There can be no doubt about the meaning of this sculpture. We have all witnessed or even carried out (!) a childish tantrum. Of course his facial expression says it all, and loudly. But imagine what he would look like if his hands weren't clenched.