Date of Award


Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)




Owen F. Smith

Second Committee Member

Marcia Douglas

Third Committee Member

James Linehan


This research is grounded in exploring existing literature and gathering data on what has been studied and investigated already on artistic practice that may inform and attempt to answer my questions about how artistic images are perceived, why they affect us so strongly and how an image bridges the emotional/rational gap between seeing, understanding and memory? I looked for a metaphor that was extensively studied, had eloquence and was as fleeting as images in people's perception, I decided to study hand gestures, because they fulfilled all of these characteristics. I was interested in the instantaneous impression, analysis and understanding that a gesture communicates, and why we can grasp something so fleeting and remember it. Gestures like images garner our attention, can both fascinate and repel, or draw us in.

Gesture is an open door into studying the implications of our personal analysis and perception. You can go back and study an image but a gesture is lost in an instant. It can never be replicated without influencing its adaptation through thinking about what really occurred as it's made without conscious thought. Only video-taped review is possible but only if the person was speaking into the camera because we tend to gesture to people not objects.

Through a review of scholarly literature I have searched for what is already known about the relationship between gestures, images, emotions and perceptions. We are a highly visual people, and our world is designed around images. The goal is to understand how images are understood, how people grasp meaning from their impressions of the visual communication of human hand gestures. People respond to images, our minds are hard wired to assimilate, associate and remember the images we experience from cradle to grave.

This research is based on the perspective that gesture is an act of human communication that may modify perceptions, attitudes and behavior. It studies how we see, feel and embed images into our conscious memory as well as how those images and our life experiences together guide our reactions and whether art has the potential to modify those rationales, through people's intellectual analysis on both conscious and unconscious levels.

My findings lie in the impact of what the maker of art is capable of accomplishing through subtle aesthetic clues, their manipulation, organization and ultimate refinement and the potential of influencing an audience through the interweaving of ideas, concepts, and emotional responses. I will present a body of work in the form of paintings, photographs and installation sculpture for my thesis research. This document supplies the background research, including what we see and how it affects us, the physical mechanics of how we view images, the process of analyzing what we see and why we project meaning into visual images.