Friday, January 27, 2012

WEEK #44 / Still Life with French Porcelain Hand

Still Life with French Porcelain Hand
James Aponovich
oil on panel, 10" x 8", 2012


At Christmas, one of the presents that we gave to our daughter Ana was, of course, a gift certificate to some place or other. While shopping, I discovered this porcelain hand at an antique shop and thought it would be clever to place the certificate in the hand. Bad idea. Her reaction to the hand was that it was "kinda creepy". She kept the gift card and returned the hand, thank you very much. O.K., I thought, maybe I'll find a use for it, then I found a discarded postage stamp sheet picked clean of stamps. Hmmmm.


The grid on the stamp sheet impressed me with it's clean lines,both straight and revealing a perforated border. It had a cool whiteness. The Minimalist painter Agnes Martin immediately came to mind.

Agnes Martin
acrylic on canvas, 1997

Minimalism, as an art form, carries a complete economy of means. Nothing is superficial. I, on the other hand, am a Representational painter so it is difficult not to tell stories, whether you want to or not. With Minimalism it is almost impossible to "read into" a painting, even the Abstract Expressionists could not avoid that.


Along with the eye, the human hand is loaded with symbolism. In the position of the porcelain it can mean STOP! or peace. The "Hand of God" was portrayed by artists in the Middle Ages as a hand in the sky. In Buddhism the hand of Buddha with fingers out stretched would symbolize the turning of the Wheel of Dharma. In almost every city, for ten bucks you can have someone read your past and tell your future by looking at your hand.

Bronze Hand
Yemen, 100-300 AD.
British Museum

This Arabian hand was an offering to God, or more precisely, a god. It stood in for the real thing. To lay your hand down to God was a serious business.


Joseph Cornell
Hotel de la Duchesse-Anne, 1957

The master of the found object was Joseph Cornell who led a very private, pedestrian life in Queens, New York, yet produced the most amazing visual poetry from random objects.


My first New York art dealer was Allan Stone. One day he had me visit him at his home just outside the city. I had never seen so much art stuffed into one house before, DeKoonings all over the place, a major Franz Kline painting behind not over the sofa! So much art that there were only narrow paths leading through the rooms. Of course I was awestruck and slack jawed and as I was walking and looking, I nearly kicked a box that was on the floor....
a Joseph Cornell box!
This painting is my homage to Joseph Cornell.


  1. I love the hand. I have a plaster cast of my hand that I keep my rings on on my dresser -- is there a better jewelry holder?? But I have friends who think that the hand on my dresser is "creepy" too. Painters spend so much time in the blurred space between the represented and the representation that we don't realize that place is foreign for others.