Noticing the animated use of my hands as I speak, a friend, as an experiment, recently took my prancing paws, tucked them under my seated thighs and said, “Okay, finish your story.” Interestingly, I could barely get the words out. My non-spoken language seemed to be essential to fluid verbal expression. My flailing fingers really help to move the thoughts along, particularly when speaking descriptively.
The notion of gestural language keeps presenting itself of late: the soundless “chatter” of Gallaudet University students riding D.C.’s Metrorail; a group of back-to-schoolers throwing signs; and the patinated “leaves” of a tree sculpture keeping watch over a brownstone Brooklyn block.
Each “leaf” on of this Second Street sculpture depicts a letter of the American Sign Language alphabet.
The words of ceramicist Judith Eloise Hooper come to mind, “hands are silent speakers, communicating through touch and gesture, saying what words often can’t.” Though I am long familiar with Judith’s beautiful free-form earthenware vases and serving vessels, I only recently learned that the stalwart board member/artist of the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition has launched an Etsy shop devoted to her sculptural series of talking hands.
The hand sculpted, grog-infused clay works have the look of terracotta and depict American Sign Language symbols: left, Whisper and right, Tell.
For further aesthetic exploration check out The Handmade Alphabet, gorgeously illustrated by artist Laura Rankin and inspired by her deaf stepson.