Dani Papanikolaou

Yadayim M’Dabrot

Senior Project April 2015


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Florida Gulf Coast University
10501 FGCU Blvd, South
Fort Myers, FL 33965-6565
(239) 590-1000 or (800) 590-3428

The hand is the most impressive feature of the human body. A hand can be a tool, a means for expression, or a weapon. We kinetically link our hands and minds when communicating an idea or telling a story. The hand, itself, is a closer component to the brain than any other part of our bodies, making it the instrument to our learning, communication, and history. Many cultures depict stories through pictorial pattern-work and elaborate compositional elements instead of through verbal exchange. The Middle East and India have the decorative arts of henna tattoos, and the native people of New Zealand, the Maori, communicate their stories through ta moko, or tattoos. The indigenous peoples of Australia illustrate stories of ancestral importance through stylized portrayals of ancient dreams and legends. These methods of storytelling require no words or articulation, rather an intrinsic display of color, line, and design to animate their narratives.

My exhibition, titled Yadayim M’dabrot (Hebrew for talking hands), signifies the overall concept of each hand retelling their stories and experiences, without the command or control of the human body. I explore these stories, all of which derive from personal experience, memory, and emotion, through form and pattern. As an artist, my conceptual language is generated through the cooperation of the medium with my hands to my mind. In essence, my hands are my mind. They contain every known symbol I write, every nuance I crave, and every twitch or mannerist impulse I perform before I even realize I am doing it. My wall pieces are telling the stories of the hands of my family members and myself. Some of the themes that are represented in those pieces include the complex transitional changes of moving from one place to another, drive for success and the search for that journey of purpose, and the power of generational love to fight off negativity and embrace true virtues. While the wall pieces represent family history, memory, and story, the floor sculptures symbolize the continuous, indeterminate, and ever-changing emotional states of being that I am currently experiencing, such the pressures of failure, anxiety, and confusion. These vulnerabilities are formed from a culmination of school, work, and the states of financial security as well as the future. But these vulnerabilities grow into accomplished success, confidence, and absolute clarity through familial love, dedication, and control.

I have developed a deep attraction to strong bold lines, accentuated shapes, and saturated colors. Constructed in wood, each wall piece was sanded, primed and painted with complex designs that embellish the stories of my family. The development of the pattern-work was influenced from a variety of cultures and built up in latex paint that gives the impression of a raised patterned surface. For the floor sculptures, I built an internal steel armature that was then draped with long strips of burlap to create gestural organic forms. The burlap was stiffened with an epoxy resin developed through a series of material experiments, then covered in paint and patterns. I life-cast my hands, as well as four of my immediate family members, by making alginate molds and filling them with a liquid plastic. Each cast hand models or acts out the story attached to its given canvas. My work is a personal amalgam of family, cultural influence, design, and storytelling. I am only one half of the artist who has created this work; my hands are the other half.