Authentic Hand - Hands in Art & Healing
I’m blessed with two hands. They assist me in so many things but most importantly they assist me in my work as a healing therapist and an artist. During my studies in both of these realms I began to focus on my hands to consider their ingenuous make up and powerful assistance.
In my life-drawing classes at Art College, our tutor went through a phase of stressing the importance of being able to draw the hands. He would chide us about monuments and paintings we had not yet examined in real life. One in particular was the statue of James Larkin (Big Jim) that stands in the main street of Ireland’s capital city. ‘Did you look at his hands?’ our tutor would repeatedly goad us. Larkin is remembered for his role in fighting for the rights of unskilled workers. The sculpture, created by Oisin Kelly, captures his pose from a scene in which he was addressing a crowd.
I had often passed by that formidable statue of James Larkin. One day, I stopped for a closer look. The outstretched arms of James Larkin certainly made a striking pose and his hands appeared to be holding up the sky. So as to put an end to the weekly taunts of my art tutor, I took out my sketch book and began to draw a quick impression of the statue standing high above me. Now I had proof that I had looked at the hands of James Larkin. I put my sketch on the wall beside our other homework for review by our class. The tutor never asked us that question again.
During my art studies I had to under-go eye surgery for the removal of cataracts from both my eyes, nothing to do with my age but more to do with my history of retinal detachment. I was optimistic about it as I had the best eye specialist and surgeon that I could hope for. Within eight days I had two surgeries, one for each eye, resulting in replacement of my natural lens with artificial ones.
There were many sensations as a result of my new vision. It was an excitement to the brain to experience the vibrancy of the colours that had been slowly dissolving from my vision over time. I could see miniscule details in the distance that I could not see previously with glasses, which had corrected a high degree of short-sightedness stemming from early childhood.
My near vision was also different. My brain was undergoing an adjustment to my new artificial lens. Curious about this, I devised a way to test my new sight. I decided to paint my left hand from life. I painted with my right hand, opening all the tubes of paint before I started, ensuring that I could leave my other hand in place as much as possible, so as not to alter its position. I made some markers so that I could take necessary breaks and return to the exact pose.
That’s how my painting ‘Authentic Hand’ came about. I did not appear to be missing many details. In fact I could even see the veins beneath my skin, as it was quite warm in the glass filled conservatory where I had completed the piece.
Within a year I commenced my studies in reflexology, providing another useful skill for my hands. So much care can be conveyed through touch and we can even learn to apply it to ourselves. Not long after I qualified (with distinction) as a reflexology therapist, I took part in some national holistic events with my new business of ‘Authentic Reflexology’. I created self-care workshops which involved the use of hands. ‘The Power in your Hands’ is the name of one of these workshops which served the purpose of empowering people to use their hands and minds in maintaining calm in their own lives.
If you are fortunate to have your two hands, I encourage you to take a moment to look at them more closely and give thanks for the purpose they serve in your life. Through all that skin and density of bone, blood vessels and tissue is the power to enable ourselves, to transmit care, to create wonders and to inspire others.
© Caroline Cunningham
Inspiring your Authentic Path