Talk to the Hand

Lately, I've been obsessed with hands.  A recent trip to western North Carolina held several meaningful interactions with hands that I couldn't ignore it.  It's a subject I've been fascinated with but have never really explored.


Many of my encounters with new acquaintances focuses on their hands.  I immediately try to size them up analyzing the condition of their hands, palms and fingers.  Sadly, my intuition is usually off.  I'm guilty of judging people by their hands.  On that roadtrip west, I met someone with dirty fingernails, and filthy hands and began to make assumptions.  "Well, they don't practice good personal hygiene now do they?"  or "How about a little soap and water buddy?"  Not fair, I know.  But, it challenges me as well.  I'm an introvert by nature and most of the time I'd rather just not talk and get to know someone.  My life as a military spouse has taught me otherwise.  The social engagements, the meetings, the workshops, the jobs all taught me to think and act outside my comfortable little box.  I make a little game out of it now and try to add up what I'm learning in the conversation with the condition of their hands.  Inevitably, I learn of hardship, injury, or illness but I also learn of success, happiness and fulfillment.  Soon enough, my initial assessment is crushed and what I find is I just want to hold their hands instead.  The things people make, fix, build, and create leave indelible marks on their hands and they tell a story if you just take time to ask them to tell it.  That's why hands are so mysterious to me.  They have a secret history and unlock new layers to a person's life.  That small conversation you had with the cashier at the grocery store unveiled the truth behind her bandaged hand.  You find she isn't careless with tools or housekeeping chores, but instead, was just released from the hospital because of a serious illness and she had to be at work so she could help pay the bills.  You offer support by listening and what little encouragement you can find in a situation like this.  You made her smile maybe or perhaps made her think that everything really is going to be ok.  You pat her hand and clench your fists as you leave thanking your lucky stars you are healthy.  


My trip to western North Carolina had two significant visual encounters that pushed me into studying the hand and its symbolism.  The first was a stay at an AirBnB that displayed a wooden cherub on the refrigerator.  I found it curious since it was pointing up with his index finger.  The second was when I walked around a local cemetery later that day and found a headstone with the same hand, pointing up with the index finger.  I couldn't ignore the signs.  What was the hand trying to tell me?  After a little digging about the index finger pointing up, I found it was not uncommon to find such symbols on headstones.  They are reminders to visitors about the path to heaven.  So I'm exploring, drawing and painting more hands.  I'm reading more scripture, listening to more spiritual leaders. That's why my hands are so dirty.  It's not grime, its charcoal or oil pastels.  That's not blood, it's crimson red acrylic paint.  Don't be alarmed!  I didn't get attacked by a robber, I just cut myself making a sculpture of praying hands.  I'm looking for answers and asking myself, "am I on that path to heaven?"  


Next time you're out, try judging a person by their hands and you'll quickly find you can't.  But that's only if you take the time to have a real conversation with them.  Maybe that's the path to heaven?

Say Yes to New Adventures

(Saying good-bye to our son at UNC Asheville, NC)

(Saying good-bye to our son at UNC Asheville, NC)

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that our family recently has gone through some big changes. First, my husband retired from the army after 27 years, and second, our youngest son, was ready for the big drop off at college. Third, we became empty nesters. Wait, I can’t forget buying and moving into a new house on the beach! Oh and making a decision to pursue my art full-time. That’s a big one. The list of life changes goes on and on.  So, in order to survive that milestone of the last child going off to college, we decided to add an epic road trip across the country. Mostly to avoid the deafening silence in our house upon our return, but more honestly, because we could! We plotted our route to Salt Lake City, UT to visit our first born. When all was said and done, it would encompass a 3 week, 5,000 mile round trip. The Air BnBs were fantastic, as were the scenic views and people we met along the way. But our true excitement was in getting to see our son and his girlfriend in a city we have grown to love.

(My son, Robbie and his lovely girlfriend, Meggie)

(My son, Robbie and his lovely girlfriend, Meggie)

Salt Lake City is growing by leaps and bounds. U.S. News recently ranked it #10 as one of the best places to live based on quality of life and the job market. The cost of living is cheaper based on other metropolitan areas as well ( Plus, it’s just a cool city.  It’s easy to navigate with a genius grid system that every city should emulate and lots of bike paths and public transportation to boot. There is no shortage of restaurants, parks, shops and museums. There’s a cool blend of mid-century bungalow meets urban contemporary. Landscaping is a pleasing mix of arid desert and prairie land meets river rock and modern sculpture. It is block after block of hipster-ville. Many neighborhoods have been revitalized and it works by looking at the stats on this city: people love it! There is an especially vibrant, urban, millennial culture here that gives me hope and inspiration.

(Driftwood horse sculpture outside the Utah Museum of Fine Arts)

(Driftwood horse sculpture outside the Utah Museum of Fine Arts)


Wanting to escape the summer heat for a little while, my husband and I set off for the Utah Museum of Fine Art with our son, Robbie, and his girlfriend Meggie. This was one stop I had to make while visiting. It did not disappoint. It had just undergone a remodel and is home to 20,000 original works of art. It’s mission: to inspire critical dialogue and illuminate the role of art in our lives. The space is large, open and inviting. One temporary exhibit called Las Hermanas Iglesias: HERE, HERE, was the most fun for all of us. An interactive installation in which one could collaborate and experiment with the elements provided. We built black and white towers of blocks, wore capes and even climbed on the structures to grab some cool photos. Lisa and Janelle Iglesias are sisters that teamed up to create a work in progress called Las Hermanas. Born and raised in Queens, New York, they set out to disrupt borders, engage absurdity and promote the benefits of working collectively (UMFA). Engage in absurdity? Say no more!


Another exhibit that fascinated me was Spencer Finch’s: Great Salt Lake and Vicinity. It was a huge undertaking by him to collect and record this work. He began by circumnavigating the Great Salt Lake. He logged all the colors along the way and the installation as a whole was impressive. There was a Pantone color swatch affixed along the perimeter of the walls and each was hand labeled with the source such as, “the bark of a tree, the algae in the distance, etc.” While in SLC, we took our own tour around some of The Great Salt Lake by way of Antelope Island State Park. Although it’s no match for hiking around the lake like Finch, I was still able to witness the enormity of the lake and make that personal connection he did with the subtle colors of stone, brush, or flower had to offer. Take a look at some of the color swatches and my own photos from Antelope Island here.


My last but not least, favorite installation (and trust me…there are so many more favorites) was Julianne Swartz’s Lace Skin Tear. A sculpture made up of tangled speaker wire with tiny speakers that whispered recordings of voices. I kept hearing something as I toured this room of temporary works and when I came face to face with it I asked myself, “what in the world?” But upon further investigation, I was drawn in first by the web of wires and then the soothing whispers that caused me to lean in and listen. I couldn’t get close enough I loved it so much.  Could it be that strange phenomenon called Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR)?  If you need to GTS (google that shit) go ahead, I’ll wait. In any event, here’s a photo and link to experience it yourself.

As an artist, little side trips like this one really reinvigorate the creative spirit for me. I take lots of pictures and notes on my phone for future reference. I read up on the artists, their process and life. Later, I try to capture my experience on canvas or journals. Going to a museum in a city you are visiting might help you understand the environment or its people on a deeper level. It might give you a different perspective on the city and its beauty. Maybe it’ll inspire you to create your own piece of art as a keepsake. Say yes to new adventures! Earth without art is just, eh.