hand portraits
April 21, 2005 5:11 AM   Subscribe

No time for Idle Hands :25 original paintings and drawings commemorating 19th-Century Women of the Plains & Prairies. (via)
posted by dhruva (2 comments total)
You know, these are beautiful paintings, but the hands will never be as eloquent as the face, and this viewer wishes more and more with every picture to see the faces that go with these hands. If you've read John Berger's "Ways of Seeing," you know that in olden times, showing someone's hands in a painting was a class indicator -- aristocrats hands were hidden, working people's hands were shown, even emphasized. In these pictures, the working women are reduced to their hands and nothing else. It's kind of demeaning and dehumanizing, in a way. Of course, none of this would be worth mentioning, if the pictures weren't done with such admirable, understated workmanship themselves.
posted by Faze at 12:41 PM on April 21, 2005

Gosh, ya think so? I have read Ways of Seeing, but I sort of take it for granted; its revolutionary edge is sort of ordinary now, and I'm grateful for Berger's critical lens, but these hand portraits seem too loving, conservative, and naive to invite a really ripping deconstruction. What does a sewer or a breadmaker see of herself in the making of a thing? The thing she makes, and her hands. It's a celebration of work and the way it defines and is defined by an individual. Plus the painter's craft is subtly concatonated with the subject's---what does a painter see but the subject and her hands? But perhaps that's just a chance association.

Anyway, I hope they get the stolen one back:
posted by DenOfSizer at 1:51 PM on April 21, 2005

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