I have an idea to create a series of narratives based on themes, like the Seven Sorrows of Mary, or themed sequences, like the Stations of the Cross. Also to look closely at the gestures used in these paintings. I discovered a book called Gestures of Despair that examined shared gestures across medieval and renaissance art. Symbolic gestures were developed in part because, though few could read words they could easily read gestures. Gestures fascinate me. We forget how rich and utterly human they are.
I recently heard a woman who receives dialysis tell a story. One day, while in the hospital, alone in her room and in great pain, a nurse came in to check the machine–her brusque manner made plain she was very busy. She barely looked at the woman and didn’t speak, but on the way out, she stopped, turned around and went to the woman’s bedside. The woman’s voice broke as she described the nurse wordlessly, gently brushing the hair from her face, and for a moment cradling the woman’s cheek with her hand. I was in tears listening. An example of the power of gesture.