March 7th, 2017 by M. Elise Hillestad
A well painted hand can convey a depth of emotion, character, and intention only comparable perhaps to the eyes of a figure. In the musculature of a hand, it’s flush, the lines of its fingers, the wrinkles and creases, a viewer reads comfort or struggle. The smooth patrician hand of a blue-blood portrait conveys leisure and privilege. The soiled, working-class hand of a laborer is an illustration in toil, the elements of nature, and the land worked lovingly. The hands of a painted mother, gently caressing her child, expresses a tangible tenderness and familiarity.
A skillfully formed hand on canvas is a great feat. Arguably, no part of the human figure is more difficult to convey believably. But when it is achieved, it reaches out to the humanity within us, like Michelangelo’s God figure, hand outstretched to Adam. A hand, divine and willful, sparking life out of the void.