The Selecting Hand, oil on canvas, 78 x 224 inches, 1986

The figures here are entirely suggestive, dressed as they are in ripped garments and tormented skin, ambiguous as fleeing birds. The pigments that created such chalk-white bones are alive, angry, and suffering. The paint spins away in pain from the force of the brush. If words were similarly consumed we would hear their meanings crackling, and the ink would arrive on the page in burnt parts and brown sheaves, so that it spoke "s cr ice" instead of "sacrifice". Imagine the surprise of paleological man when he first saw his footprint drying in the mud or felt his hand pressed upon a wet cave wall, and recognized himself in the impress. In that accidental way, the history of the hand would begin. Why has mankind come at last to this altar in Hell? to escape from all concepts of self and survival, to pick and choose victims, to wash hands and reject issues, to have a touch of death in a ditch, to fly away in a scream of cloud.

—William H. Gass 2014

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