“Art is long. Life is short.” is a translation of Hippocrates’ quote. What really sends me reeling is that its contemporary meaning first pops into mind: artworks last a long time - forever maybe - in museums, galleries, collections; and you only have to know one dead person to know that life is short.
But that wasn’t the original meaning. Hippocrates meant that his craft, the refinement of an art, takes such a long time that life is too short to get there.
This post is really about the extraordinary work of artist Rena Small and the historical importance of her portrayal of artists’ hands. She began the project nearly 30 years ago. The word “project” is too clinical though. From the start it must have been a vision, a quest. The original tome of the photographs haunts with each unique approach. The experiences that surround them remind me about the brilliance of art being long. The faithful longevity and intimacy of Rena’s portraits of hands gives us a glimpse into time itself.
Shown here is Rena Small’s photograph of my hands that she made this month. We waited three decades for this and she used three cameras, a 2-1/4 Hasselblad, 35mm Nikon, and her iPhone.