Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hand-to-Hand Project

Earlier this summer, Atlanta artist Cecelia Kane, who has produced the Hand-to-Hand Project since 2003, invited me to participate in this rather amazing collaboration.

Here's a description of the show from the website:

"Since March 2003, when the war in Iraq began, I started a series of paintings in response to the war. I chose as my material simple cotton gloves and painted a news story each day about the war directly on to them.

Each glove is a "rosary bead" in a daily witnessing. In 2006, I expanded the project to include over 100 artists as a continuing community dialog."

-Cecelia Kane

I'd been aware of the project for some time. Several of my artist friends who work in all kinds of media had participated. I have to say I was a bit intimidated by it. Fortunately, this is my Off the Grid time when I say yes to all invitations to make and show art. The timing couldn't have been better. Except that the war, particularly the war in Iraq, has long since folded itself into the creases of my mind. I thought I had a bit more engagement with the fighting in Afghanistan, but the fact is, with no personal contact among those in the military, an aging resentment of the sentimentality with which we treat today's soldiers (compared to those who fought in "my war") and Bush out of office, even a healthy intellectual disgust was long dormant. I was very curious to see what I would make of the assignment and how I would respond to the subject. I love working with the random.

The project calls for each artist to select a headline relating to the war in Iraq (and only Iraq) for each day of her/his assigned dates. Cecelia slotted me for June 29-July 4.

Ah, Independence Day! That might be intriguing. Or not.

But it was also the week I was moving the Knuckle from her indie apartment to assisted living, so cherry picking headlines was out. I wound up scanning and picking from The NYT, The LA Times, the BBC and some small town newspapers.
On one day, VP Biden was in Bagdad, on another day the story I chose had to do with a war-made millionaire. Of course, there was, as there always seems to be, a headline with the current death toll.

I played with the gloves for a long time thinking I'd string them out. Cecilia's instructions recommended that I use my own methods and work within my own interests. For me that meant a book. It was a short step to figuring out how to stitch the hands together to form a "hand book" but my words were not particularly instructive.

While printing the headlines on each glove (also as instructed) I decided to leave the last word of each headline off the front of the glove and print it on the back instead. This would force the reader to turn the page and create a little dramatic tension. I also saw that the single words on the backs of each hand could form their own message. Or not. I decided to stick with the random.
I printed leaves on the white gloves but in an excess of excess I then dipped them in a wash of red acrylic. Perhaps they were too pretty. I'd been collected metal bits picked up from the street and other places and once I'd stitched the gloves together and sized pieces of bookboard for the cover, I decided to add lace-edged handkerchiefs. My piece was now completely out of hand, no pun. I found an assortment of metal bits that worked for me. A key from an old American Tourister suitcase spoke to the cynicism with which I view all wars and connected to the story about Biden's Independence Day visit. I also have a heart-shaped tag from the Viet Nam War, which I included because I wanted a real person's real tag included.

Finally, I aged the piece with walnut ink and tucked it away in a cigar box, where those little bits of flotsam and jetsam wind up surviving when more precious objects do not. After a few days in this "baking" process I opened the box and realized the piece was finished.

Off it goes to join the other "beads" on Cecelia's endless rosary where it will take its place among a larger prayer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

War is not healthy for children and other living things. 1-2-3-4 we don't want your f------ war.

C. Joe