Anatomy of the Hands in Black and White of December
The hands have a story to tell of December! Here in the Northern hemisphere, winter has started to set in and it brings a sense of doom, darkness, and cold.
In its naked form, the doom translates into two opposing colors in their extreme: black and white. Nights are long and days are frequently adorned with the white of snow. The vista is bleak.
is a minimalist portrayal of the season. The black reflects the long dark nights and the white reflects the snow. Artistic portrayal of the season is in its most basic form. Black has many attributes, and in this context, reflects loneliness, quiet, mystery, but also intimidation. The absence of light prevents us from seeing things, and the inability to see things makes us nervous. At its most extreme it reflects death. On the other hand, black is a color of authority and power. Night is the end of the day, but as soon as light appears, a new day awakens. White also has many characteristics and is the confluence of all color, resulting in no color at all. At its best it signifies purity. On a cold winter morning after a snowfall there is a white silence as if the world is asleep.
Spring colors are long gone. The greens of summer and the yellows of fall have disappeared. Skeletons of the large deciduous trees stand naked in the cold.
We have lived with the bleak and cold winters for centuries. As a result, we have devised ways to counter this barren vista. Using our heads and hands, we have learned to bring light, color, and warmth to December.
Festivals of light have been created through both ancient and modern cultures including Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Bodhi day, Malh festival, Mōdraniht, Saturnalia, Sol Invictus, Yule, Yolda, Sadeh, and Chahar Shanbeh Suri. Universal among these cultural celebrations is the need to bring joy, warmth, and light to offset the dark’s gloom.
Hands play a large part in the December season. In a literal sense, they reach out to friends and family, light candles and fires, and extend uplifting gestures by providing food, gifts, and hugs. In a spiritual way, they extend in hope and prayer.
This post tells the story of the hands in December in symbolic and abstract ways by combining photography, radiology, and painting.
In this extreme rendering of the middle of a cold winter night, the heavens are black and the earth is white with snow. Only the stars of the heaven provide glimpses of warmth and light.
shows x-rays of cold, skeletal hands in the adverse conditions of freezing winter among naked branches, in a field of snow. The nighttime scene with a full moon adds a mysterious and eerie ambience. The art piece expresses a desperation of a group of people when they are suffering and searching for light and warmth. The open hands are chilled to the bone, pleading for special empathy. The moon provides neither warmth nor light, but offers a glimmer of hope, however small. The X-rays are used to strip the flesh down to the bones and the common suffering of a community is rendered real and deeply palpable. This piece has a surreal character, since the x-rays are taken out of context and placed into snow white fields. The hands have been brought together to look like a tree.
The limited warmth and light provided by the moon is temporary. Since the cycle of time brings a new day and new vista, there is an honored promise for a new beginning, accompanied by the sun which is brighter and warmer than the moon.
shows x-rays of the skeleton of hands warmed by the light and heat of sunrise. The hands greet the sun with open arms. In this early morning scene, the whole tree of hands lays open like a flower to the newfound warmth. The piece expresses relief after an arduous night, and a promise by the light of the moon of better things to come.
shows x-rays of hands in the adverse conditions of the cold winter among naked branches of the trees, in a field of snow. With the warmth of the sun, the hands are bold enough to face the winter. The foreground (recent past) is shaded and dark while the future is bright, light, and blue. The hands are chilled to the bone but their upward and upright position reflect strength, a “high 5”, a wave, or a handshake. As the hands assume boldness, light emerges and projects into the future.
During the cold month of December hands also reach out to others.
shows hands that give and receive. This gesture relates to moral justice. There is a balance in our actions. This balance is not always evident nor provided in material currency. The teacher receives this satisfaction from a look in the eye of a student who suddenly understands. The policeman or fireman receives the same grateful look that words cannot replace. It is given and received in love and compassion and is the essence of bonding. This feeling occurs between both people and animals. The art piece shows “giving” hands and “receiving” hands. The receiving hands are tipped to both receive and to give in the continuing cycle. The X-rays are used to strip the flesh down to the bones and make the charity tangible. The candle is the light and warmth that results from the the interaction of giving and receiving. The message is particularly poignant in the winter season when we are driven indoors in dark, cold and often lonely days. We need the light and the bonds to help us survive the dark days.
Festivals of light including Chanukah and Christmas are festivals when light and human bonds are needed and are abundant.
shows a hand warmed by the light and heat created with the lighting of the Chanukah candles. The nighttime scene adds an ambience of spirituality. The art piece expresses hope of enlightenment for the world. In the candle lighting ritual, the primary candle is called the Shamash and it is lit first, and is then used to light the others starting from left to right. Shamash was also the Sun God in Mesopotamia, the god of justice in Babylonia and Assyria and shemesh means sun in Hebrew. All of these historical associations involve the casting of light and warmth, both physical and spiritual. The candles are based in a simple chanukiah of stone and clay.
Christmas is the season of welcoming the birth of Jesus Christ to the world. As the progenitor of the Christian faith he brought and continues to bring tolerance, compassion, and respect for life to the world. Artistic portrayal of the event shows welcoming hands of the future Christian world. Darkness for many was illuminated by the event. In this art piece, the bright moon (almost as bright as any sun) lights up the black of the night. The star of Bethlehem has a mysterious and unique blue hue directing the 3 kings or wise men to the event. Black and white are used liberally in this work. Though opposites in many ways, they also compliment and need each other to reflect the contrast of moods.
Acknowledgement: The central component of “Birth of Jesus – Welcoming Hands” depicting Jesus and Mary was adapted from the public domain work of Gerard van Honthorst (1592-1656) entitled “Adoration of the Shepherds.”
shows hands progressing to a bonding position in prayer and contemplation. At the pinnacle, a light is created and reflects on the water. X-rays are used to project a feeling that goes deep into the bones. The colors express our outside differences, but we are all made of the same flesh and bones. A triangle with the apex reflects a direction and an upward focus to a heightened physical and spiritual position. This art piece is created for Christmas 2015 with a hope of mutual respect among all faiths.
During this season there should be time for contemplation.
shows x-rays of skeletal hands warmed by the light and heat of the fire. This piece expresses relief after a trudge through the cold snowy night to find light and warmth. The hands hold the warm fire at a distance but seem tender in the way they cherish the comfort and the fire, freeing the body from physical discomfort and allowing time for introspection.
And as a world … what do we see?
The year of 2015 has turned humanity on its head, particularly concerning is the rise of extreme Muslim ideologies in which belief and faith are placed above human life. The rise of antisemitism is palpable. The immorality of double standards where political and economical bias reigns above the truth is shameful.
The next art piece is an appeal to our leaders to talk and put life and truth above all.
“How can we hold each other rather than kill each other?”
“We all seem to be made of the same stuff” they said as they looked inside themselves.
The AiA rendering is a collection of the diagnostic X-rays of many hands of people of various ages, in various positions of giving and taking and in health and disease. The hand with the watch epitomizes the concept of time. Cultural aspects are also suggested. The hand with a wedding band provides a sense of trust and faith and the hand with the Claddagh ring represents love loyalty and friendship. The hands are oriented to give the sense that they are communicating with each other.
Since December also brings in the New Year, it is time to try and make changes for a brighter 2016. We cannot predict, but we can hope:
shows hands held together with hope, warmed by the dim light and heat of the moonlight. 2015 was not an easy year and created a heavy heart for many who witnessed and experienced senseless killing. The nighttime scene lends a sense of spirituality but also of uncertainty. The piece above shows hands scarred by the year’s events. They are held not in prayer but in a gentle pose that reflects hope for the New Year of 2016. We hope that sanity and not hatred rules. We pray for leadership that is free from double standards, and that is committed to common decency.
Hope is passive; the initiation of action should be a simple first step. The honest handshake between trusting partners is the least we should expect.
Let us agree that the right to live is above all other rights!
“In joined hands there is still some token of hope, in the clinched fist none.”
― Victor Hugo, The Toilers of the Sea
“You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.”
― Indira Gandhi