Sunday, July 17, 2011

Three Hands

Voices of the Ancestors, oil on panel, 16 x 20 inches
Two hands are natural and emblematic of human beings—one hand is tragic—but what about three? I have a series of paintings using the theme of three hands. For most people, the images are perplexing, and that is okay with me, because I like mysterious pictures.

My first painting with three hands was made while I lived in Granada, Spain. My apartment was high on a hill in the Albayzín neighborhood, near the flamenco caves where dancers and musicians performed every night. I could paint, and walk around shooting photos during the day, and go to the caves at night. The house was great. I entered from a small street that had no cars, and passing through a narrow kitchen and living room, a couple stairs led to a spacious patio that overlooked housetops and the tree-lined river that flowed from Sacromonte into town. Directly opposite on a hill stood the walls and towers of Alhambra, the World Heritage Site. Another door on the patio led to a cozy bedroom.

Artist models are sometimes hard to come by, but with a mirror, a self-portrait can be made. I started a self-portrait, but wanted expression, so I included hands reaching to my face. Maybe because I was alone, and desired company, I added a hand coming from the top of the painting.

Soon, a French woman I met in Venice, Italy arrived to visit. We had become great friends in Venice, especially since she is a professor of art in a University in Nimes, France. I had visited her where she lived in Provence, and now she visited me. I did a portrait of her, and again, added an extra hand reaching down from the top of the painting, as if to touch her head. She liked the result, and also the self-portrait I had done. “You must do a series”, she suggested. I liked her idea, and in the next several months made more paintings with three hands.

Anne, oil on canvas, 20 x 20 inches
When I went to Berlin, I made a painting of my young German friend Anne, and used my own hand as the third one. Another time, I painted an abandoned house, high on a hill, in Andalusia, Spain. I put in three hands, as if gesturing. I call the piece “Voices Of The Ancestors”, as if spirits were re-visiting a place on earth they were familiar with.

Sometimes, while artists work, their unconscious is emerging in the process.   “Great art is as irrational as great music.  It is mad with its own loveliness.”  ~George Jean Nathan

I cannot entirely explain the meaning of having three hands in these paintings. It is to offer an element of mystery and surprise, and also my belief is that I have a muse, and I surmise I am including one hand of my muse in the paintings.

Self-Portrait With a Rose, (made while in Berlin), oil on linen, 18 x 24 inches
“Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better.”  ~André Gide

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