My musical blog yesterday focused on a sculpture of my left hand that I made recently. I have always loved hands. As a small child, the image of God’s hands was prevalent in the books given to us at the beginning of each term in our Sunday school classes.
Our hands reveal so much about us: our age, our race and, for some, the kind of work we do.
PaPa, my mother’s father, had hands that were large, strong, ruddy and gnarled but, at the same time, gentle and loving when he prayed and played with his grandchildren.
PaPa was a farmer. He worked the soil, raising cotton and maize in addition to maintaining a large peach orchard and acres of corn, green beans and black-eyed peas for our extended family. That was one of his love gifts.
When my father died of a heart attack at the age of 36, I was nine years old. Patting and holding Daddy’s hands as he laid in his open casket is a memory seared in my mind forever.
One of my favorite photos of Laura, my daughter, is of her exuberantly clapping her hands with delight as her father, Larry, sat on the floor, legs crossed, playing a game of patty cake.
In our culture, it’s still acceptable to touch one another by shaking hands with friends as well as strangers. In many ways, we talk with our hands and telegraph our openness through our gestures and willingness to physically reach out to one another.
Returning to sculpting recently after forty years has been a delight, a return to a former muse and a soothing, calming movement in which my hands make a happy or sad memory tangible by smoothing, pinching, forming and caressing a lump of clay.
It wasn’t until I chose to sculpt a hand at the Menninger Clinic in my required art therapy class that I first learned about the famous French sculptor Rodin. Kyle, the art therapist, told me about how he was famous for his sculptures of hands. I especially like his The Cathedral and The Hand of God. The day I decided to create a fisted hand, I decided to get better, not fight the therapy. Through my sculpting, I committed to a determination to get well.
Sculpting is relaxing, prayerful, calming and fun. Completing my first bronzed sculpted hand ever has been an amazing celebration of beautiful memories of the loving, committed hands in my life. While I was sculpting, there were times I emitted an unplanned sound of joy and approval from my throat.
“Where did that come from?” I thought, the first time it occurred. I was surprised and thrilled with the sounds and feelings of satisfaction.
Do you remember the first time you received the gift of Play-Doh? It was all the rage in 1956. Play-Doh was the beginning of my interest in sculpting. It was so much easier to work with than the clay we used at school.
I am convinced we are all artists in our hearts. We long to express ourselves and communicate what’s important to us. What do you love to do? Is it photography, painting, writing, carving, sculpting, gardening or building bird houses? Whatever it is; do it! You’ll be glad you did.