Hand Gesture Atlas

Yesterday I noted that many of my early pictures of my brother Michael happened to feature images of hands as visual elements. Mike is nonverbal, autistic and profoundly retarded. He does not speak, nor does he use gestures to communicate.

Mike’s hands are visual elements because of the delicate awkwardness with which he holds them. His hands are thin and, I would even say, dainty. However, sometimes he didn’t treat them delicately; he used to slap his head and chest, and bite his hand really hard when he was frustrated.


Below is a study for an atlas of hands, stereotypical hand positions that my brother exhibited, and gestures he used.

Watercolor study of hands with different gestures

Study for Hand Atlas
4″x10″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

From specific to general

I did a brief search on the subject of gestures and found that some experts think that there may be some of them may have the same meanings in different cultures. This is a similar line of thought to the universality of facial expressions.

Together with my visual exploration of hands and gestures, I intend to explore this subject from a scientific angle in a future post.

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