Posts Tagged ‘hands’

While babysitting for a friend. The light shining through mom’s shawl onto her sleeping daughter’s hand. The newest member in a family of artists. A lovely calming sight in a chaotic world. 😉

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These are the hands of St. Paul, St. Peter and Jesus as painted by John La Farge in the murals for Trinity Church.  I was inspired to create this compilation by the moving images and words in Steve McCurry’s recent post, The Language of Hands. I may write more about hands in the future, but for now, I hope you enjoy these images.

St. Paul’s hands

St. Peter, the key in his hand

Jesus with Nicodemus, hands resting

Hands of Christ and Woman at the Well

St. Paul Mural by John La Farge, 1877

St. Paul

The Visit of Nicodemus to Christ by John La Farge, 1878

The Visit of Nicodemus to Christ


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a helping hand across cold waters

a helping hand across cold waters

An imperfect image yet one I could not make myself delete.  An older man was helping a very young child cross big stones at the ocean’s edge.  She was having a grand time dancing above the waves and perceived no danger in the rising tide.  The man was more wary, and getting quite wet, but given the smile on his face at the child’s unconstrained joy, a bit of wetness was all worth it.

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“Of course, my dear.”  As he presented his hands to me – resting them on a book, waving them in the air, etc – he described the work he’d done with those hands over the years.  Keith is his name and he was subbing for a security guard at a local church.  We’d only known each other for less than an hour though when he first saw me his first words were, “Have we met before?”  While I’m horrible with names I’m pretty good with faces and his aged face did not look familiar.  But he did feel awfully comfortable to be around.  And so after hearing him speak for a few minutes with his beautifully accented voice I said, “Sir, when were you born?”  The people around me may have been appalled I asked that question, but he looked at me and laughed.  “1933, my dear.”  Then he took out his I.D. card with his birth date to prove it.

keith hands

For the short while that we were together he described growing up in Barbados,  then moving to England as a young man where he worked for Rover and his various adventures as a stellar mechanic.  He described his first wife and her untimely death that left him with three young children under the age of 10.  He made a decision to focus on the children and not remarry until they were grown.  And when they were grown he did remarry.  There was no question asked that did not produce beautiful, sometimes heartwrenching, stories of family, friends and work. I finally said, “Sir, you should record these stories.”  He chuckled and said, “I’ve lived these experiences.  Why do I need to record them?”

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Steve Hands for Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue 8

Steve Hands for Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue 8

The best part about having been given carte blanche to use his words and my images of him however I choose … well, it is just so much fun to say out of the blue, “Hey, Steve, guess what?  There’s a picture of your hands appearing in a magazine next month.”  He pauses, takes a deep breath and then says, “So, when did you take this picture?”  And I get to make statements like, “Oh, don’t you remember that afternoon you were peeling shrimp and we were talking politics?”  Anyway … 😉  His hands are paired with a vignette in the online and print publication, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Issue 8.  As explained on the journal’s website, a vignette is a word that originally meant “something that may be written on a vine-leaf.” A snapshot in words.  Here’s a link to the freshly launched issue filled with great brief reads and a wonderful array of images.

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Based on yesterday’s post, I was asked by a few folks if I went up one more flight of stairs to view the hands of the Sargent murals.  Oh, yes indeed I did.  I did not begin with the Madonna of Sorrows with her silver crown.  With my limited time, I focused first on the prophets.

At the end of my stay, as I focused more on the Madonna of Sorrows, I had to stand close to a young security guard.  Finally I turned to her and asked, “Do you ever get bored?” She smiled and suddenly looked about twelve years old.  She said, “No, ma’am.  Every day I see something new.”

See all of the Sargent murals, in context, via this link.  This is an excellent site as well: http://www.sargentmurals.bpl.org/


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Hands, hands, hands.  I was surprised in preparing this post to discover that I have written about hands quite a bit over the years. Two posts that moved me most were from four years ago, Hands I and Hands II.   Hands stood out again during a recent visit to the Boston Public Library, visiting yet again the room with the Abbey Murals. I’ve photographed the murals often but this time I tried to focus on the hands.

For those new to the murals, in the 1890s Edwin Austin Abbey began a series of 15 wall paintings depicting The Quest and Achievement of the Holy Grail (based on a version of the legend by Henry James).  They were installed in 1895.

On the BPL website, you can read a description of the 15 panels and the story they depict.  Given how many shy maidens must have their hands kissed by Sir Galahad …

… and how many babes, swords and various vessels must be borne aloft and so on …

… well, it’s clear why Abbey paid so much attention to the hands of his legendary figures.

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Here’s a whimsical project inspired by the Robert Mappelthorpe images in Patti Smith’s memoir Just Kids.  Interspersed throughout the book are images taken by Mapplethorpe of Patti, of himself, and of the two of them together.  What stands out for me in each of the images, reproduced as black and white in the book, are their hands.  Long-fingered, pale, thin hands.  Willowy.  I’ve always been drawn to hands, and so after completing the book, I decided to engage in a quick photo project with friends and coworkers today.  Let me photograph your hands.  Thankfully, they complied.

Dixie the Archaeologist

Meredith the Musician

Steve, the Physicist, Peeling an Orange

Steve Pollinating His Pepper Plant

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Hands I

I have always noticed hands.  I remember my father’s hands as he held the shovel in the garden or when he was tucking my brother and I into bed at night.  He worked several jobs to make ends meet, most of which took place outside, so his hands had become dark like chestnut and calloused.  Big meaty hands I heard someone describe them once.  They were great anchors to hold onto when my brother and I were scared at night going down the hall to the bathroom.  My mother’s hands were small and light, a caramel color.  She called them “chunky” but I think that had more to do with self-perception than reality.   When I used to lay with my head in her lap, I remember her hands above me holding the newspaper or a book or swishing a paper fan to cool us off in summer.

Hands have especially been on my mind this week, as I do some fall cleaning.  I came across an old letter written by a former student for whom I had briefly served as advisor at a local university.  The young man had graduated and was working across the country.  He had handwritten me a six-page letter — an honor in and of itself!  He wrote of being on a life journey, trying to figure out his place in the world, and how to make the world a better place.  While journeying in the desert, he came across a shop with handmade Native American jewelry.  And this is what he wrote:

“Most of the jewelry were of symbols which had meaning for these tribes.  One symbol struck me and made me think of you, our conversations, friendship and the future and it seemed almost like it was waiting there for me to see.  And so if you opened the [enclosed] gift already you will see the symbol – a hand – which is a symbol within the Hopi tribe which stands for this …young men were initiated into different societies.  Toward the completion of their initiation, they journeyed to several sites where they were required to leave behind a mark.  The handprint was a common mark left behind by these young men … “

The author of this amazing letter goes onto suggest that I had left my mark on him as he continues his life journey, and that through our conversations and my sharing my dreams of writing and living a creative life, that I had made a difference in his life.  I hope that is the case.  We have not conversed in over 7 years, but finding his letter and the necklace (pictured above), made a difference in my life for sure as I continue to try to figure out my life journey.

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