Marja-Leena Rathje
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hand studies




While I continue to work on my Hands series, I am also thinking of possibilities to follow, whether they will be variations on the same theme or something else, I don't know yet. Anyway, I did some playing with hand scans again with an exploration of tones other than the natural. Here they are in my online 'sketchbook' as food for thought...

I seem to revisit hands in my work (and in blog posts such as here) many times and of course hands have been a subject for artists since cave art days. One that I recently learned about thanks to a mention by a fellow artist is Gary Schneider and his fascinating photo series called Handbook 2012. Made by hands' sweat and heat interacting with film emulsion, these [are] unusual portraits of friends and family...(via Aperture). His work is otherworldy, stunning and thought-provoking.

And I love the thought of my hand images being self-portraits!

Marja-Leena | 24/01/2013 | 16 comments
themes: Being an Artist, Human, Other artists, Photoworks


I found Gary Schneider's hands very interesting. Of course your hands are self portraits - body language, gesture, is a much truer indicator of the person. I love the bottom hand best of all.

Oh my. His hands that show light being cupped are more than a little amazing, aren't they?

I like these new images of yours. The gesture of giving is very clear as is your generous nature.

Olga, yes, of course these are self-portraits, just not your traditional kind, but that's what appeals to me. I'm glad you like that one, it is sort of growing on me... we'll see if I go that route.

Susan, his work is indeed amazing with that mysterious light.

Glad you like these 'sketches' of a sort while I think about what I might do. And you are so generous to me, thanks!

I'm catching up again on blogs and blogging and loving the hand series. I like especially the images with small objects in the palms. The simple side images in varied tones are lovely as well.

I am very interested in reading and seeing Marly Youmans book. I plan to order it.

I really like these, Marja-Leena! Not just a hand, but a gesture that makes the self-portrait.

Anne, you lead such a busy life, so I'm pleased you've come for a visit and for your kind observations about my work. I'm sure you will love Marly's book too.

Beth, I'm pleased that you like these. And how right you are about 'gesture as self-portrait'.

Don't take this as rude, since I say again you have very elegant hands, but something about that rather shiny, darkened tone that the scanner gives them, especially in the colourless b/w one, reminds me of the hands of the 'bog people' or 'Moorleichen', prehistoric bodies preserved in peat bogs on the North German/Danish borders, which I remember seeing in a museum in Schleswig-Holstein when I was younger.

I've got used to my hands, but have never found them attractive, and find photos of them unappealing and difficult to identify with. I probably need to work on this!

They are portraits of course and it is very true that the gestures which they adopt even for someone dedicated to words can be rich and meaningful. I look forward to more hands and more gestures of peace and generosity.

Lucy, you can never be rude. Actually I rather like that you are reminded of the bog people, because I am so interested in archaeology and anthropology and like to play on these ancient connections in my work.

Thanks again for the compliment, Lucy. I don't think my hands are elegant or beautiful, certainly they are wrinkled and fleshy in places. At first I felt self-conscious about them in the large prints but I don't think of them as realistic self-portraits. After all, the artist's most available model is himself or herself. Yet one can't avoid the self-portrait label either.

With these little tests, I'm trying out ideas for another approach or variation with the hands theme, maybe even less realistic than the first group I'm still working on. The third image intrigues me because it feels otherwordly, maybe even spooky like the hand of that bog person you saw! The dark fleshy folds look quite unpleasant.

Joe, thank you for your generous words. You might change your mind on the work once I get going on it. These tests are only that at the moment, the top two perhaps a little too sweet for what I feel would be right. Not to worry, I don't think I'll go for angry fists either. :-)

The third, lunar-looking one certainly divorces us from "you." It's alien... While the ends of the fingers have a certain elegance, the rest of the hand resembles a landscape--a weird Icelandic landscape maybe! I thought of the large landscapes of Iceland that Beth Adams has been doing. Also, there's an odd area near the wrist (bottom left) that looks etched, almost--certainly looks hand-worked, so to speak!

Thanks to Anne--I hope she likes the book. I'm very glad when somebody says they intend to obtain a copy because peddling an epic adventure in verse is not an easy thing in 2013. It's certainly not the kind of thing shoved in our faces these days. I do think the just up review from Wales is marvelous--

That bottom image would be striking in a large format!

Marly, as always I love what you see - this time an Icelandic landscape, and an etching - how marvelous - thank you!

Your book is just fabulous and I'm so glad for you about that wonderful review which I found via Clive. I added that to my post about your Thaliad. It deserves a wide audience and I wish it much luck and wings that it may fly to many hands.

Hattie, you are right! Maybe I will print it large like the other "Hands". I'm toying with the idea of doing smaller prints which I could print at home and which would be more affordable. I did one before Christmas as a special gift which turned out lovely - more on that later.

Thank you so much for those kind words, Marja-Leena. I hope so, though I definitely think that a small press book depends heavily on Lady Word of Mouth! I hope she is good to me on this one...