I immediately wrote Cecilia and asked if she had room for me. She did, and assigned me the week of July 12. That week, I searched a score of sources, printing out dozens of stories. At the end, I sorted through the stories, looking for as broad a representation of what went on that week as possible. As I read the stories, I began to recognize the ways in which all of them were intertwined. It was slow winnowing down to one per day. Though there was one day, to my amazement, when I could find no stories at all-- to be followed the very next day by stories about bombings that killed dozens and injured dozens more. People who were going to work, looking for jobs, buying food, people who left families behind.
Doing this project took me far deeper emotionally than I expected. Each story made me think profoundly about not only the direct implications of that event on people's lives, but also how each of the stories linked up to others to weave a web of cause and effect, position and consequences, abstract numbers and real lives. Working on each piece, simple as they of necessity are, moved me deeply. My mind is now populated with people I do not know, but who have become part of me. I ended up spending a great deal of time pondering how best to express each story, and the human story buried in it.
Before I began my week, I had done some background reading to refresh my memory of the political and cultural history of Iraq. I went to college (decades ago) with many middle easterners, and got to know many of them as friends. My university had a strong middle east program, and a course on middle east history that I audited opened my eyes to the fact that Americans have no sense of Iraq's true history, or of the factors that created the land it is today. If they did, they would understand why Europeans have been so reluctant to become involved. It was this very sort of involvement on their part for centuries that created the rupture of the middle east.
I am grateful for the opportunity to participate. I learned so much, both from the reading, and from the process of creating art from it. When I saw the photos of the exhibit, I was deeply moved. It is stunning to see all those hands, and all the ways in which artists incorporated the hand motif into their expressions of their stories. I am honored to be part of it.
Here are the pieces I created for the project (click on the images to view a larger version. Use your browser back button to return to this post):
My pieces are on their way to be included in the current installation in Athens, Georgia, at the Athens Institute of Contemporary Art, where Hand to Hand is the featured installation along with other installations addressing related themes. The exhibit at ATHICA opens August 21st and runs through September 26th.
The Hand to Hand website has some striking photos of the exhibit, including links to samples of work from each year-- over seven years in all. The cumulative effect of the hundreds of hands and nearly 200 artists' visions is stunning. Cecilia is working to secure a final resting place for the installation. I hope she is successful.
Ironically, the final installation will be at the gallery I am most involved in, the Chaffee Art Center, in Rutland, Vermont, something I did not know when I signed on. It opens there on October 8th and will run to November 20th. If you are nearby, please come to the reception!
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A note about method: I used what are known as "museum gloves", light-weight cotton gloves worn to protect art works from the oils of human skin. They allowed me the flexibility to shape the gloves as needed. I chose to mount the gloves on 7 inch by 10 inch pieces of matboard, in a collage incorporating other materials and paint, ink, and pencil. On some gloves, I used an acrylic polymer hardener to make it possible to create a three-dimensional aspect. Others were glued flat because that seemed to fit the day's story better. I added the daily "headlines", word for word, by printing them on a laser printer and lifting the print using translucent acrylic gel, then using the same gel to mount them to the matboard. I used the same method to incorporate snippets of photographs in some of the pieces.