Lauren Miller: All in the Gesture

If you had to explain Ann Hamilton’s and Cynthia Schira’s large-scale installations in An Errant Line to a seven-year-old, how would you do it? Delve into a discussion about textiles? Talk about the nuanced nature of student/teacher relationships? Try to explain what in the world “errant” means?

This is what I was attempting to figure out, as I was standing before a case in a side gallery that was filled with highly individualized Italian presepio dolls.

miller doll

I stared at the gestural figures, taking in the meticulous detail and wondering how I could translate Hamilton’s figura into a gallery guide for Family Day at the Museum. One doll in particular caught my eye.This male figure’s hair swooped slickly back behind one ear, highlighting a rosy cheek. Its somber smile matched the downward tilt of its head and longing sideways gaze. My eyes ventured down the doll’s tweed-like top to its eloquently expressive hands. Each finger was bent with purpose and emotion.The striking pose of the hands seemed to be the focal point of the piece, enticing the viewer in to examine the posture further. After thoroughly analyzing this figure, I walked into Central Court to view its enlarged reproduction in the scan that Hamilton had made for the wall.

Miller Invite

I looked at the pink ghostlike image of the doll and noticed it was mostly blurred except for two distinct areas: the face and hands.These body parts claim attention in Hamilton’s print just as they do in the presepio figure itself. Immediately my mind began to race with possible points of discussion regarding pose, mood, expression, and technique that could be used for this family-oriented project. My question about interpretation seemed to be solved. It was all in the gesture.

Lauren Miller, History of Art graduate student, University of Kansas

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