Open Hands: A Collaborative Work with Strangers

March 15 - 18, 2018 • Sidewalks of New York City

An artist is never poor. Babette's Feast by Isak Dinesen

Babette's Story

Do you know the story Babette's Feast by Isak Dinesen? Babette, once a famous chef, is a refugee, who escapes the French civil war and resettles in Norway. For the next twelve years, she cooks for two deeply religious sisters—without pay. Then one day Babette wins the lottery and decides to use all her winnings to prepare a lavish feast for the sisters and their starchy church community. Overwhelmed by Babette's beautiful gift, the meal transforms the sisters and heals the entire community.

Open Hands, Pamela Alderman, Paper collage panels, 9x4 feet, 2018

Open Hands, Pamela Alderman, Paper collage panels, 9x4 feet, 2018

Artist Statement

Babette's Hands. A symbol of humanity. With her hands, she stitches her world. A physical touch given—not taken. With her hands, Babette stirs the soup. A labor of warmth shared. With her hands, Babette kneads the bread. A redemptive pressing. With her hands, she artfully sets the table with each spoon. A whispered prayer for each stranger. With her hands, Babette serves her family. A living testament of fellowship. With her hands, Babette sacrifices all. Lavishly. For her fractured family. Her fractured community. Her fractured world.

Meeting strangers and getting hand trace drawings in NYC Meeting strangers and getting hand trace drawings in NYC

17 Mile Journey - A Spontaneous Work

While walking seventeen miles through New York City, I invited individuals to respond to my interactive art as I stopped on sidewalks, waited in line at famous tourist attractions, or sat in Starbucks. I challenged others to live generously and be part of the solution to healing our broken world. My artwork spoke of compassion and living large hearted. But do I actually live that way myself?

At the end of one day after challenging others on the streets of New York to help impact our broken world, I missed a valuable chance to connect with a stranger. After a woman who was drinking alone at the bar saw my husband pull out my chair at the table, she said, “Aren't you lucky.”

We chatted for a quick moment. But I kept thinking of her as I ate my meal. When she pulled out twenty dollars to pay her tab, I had an urge to offer to pay for her drink. But I didn't act.

I did say goodbye, though, and wished her well. This restarted another small conversation. But as I watched her leave the restaurant, I felt an emptiness—a lost opportunity. I didn't have any more maps left to invite her to interact with my art. But this woman probably needed something deeper than an interactive art experience. This woman may have needed the artist, herself, to live out her art message.

Today I'll look for another moment to connect. This time I hope to respond like Babette and offer the next stranger an opportunity to experience infinite grace. Then my artwork will actually have an impact across generations because the artist will have learned to live with an open hand.

Meeting strangers and getting hand trace drawings in NYC

Invitation to Respond

Like Babette, what is one way you could sacrifice for another? To symbolize giving to others, trace your hand on a piece of paper. Then jot a note or a single word on how you can specifically start the healing process in your broken family or fractured community.

Babette's Feast is now playing at the Theatre at St. Clements located at 423 West 46th St, New York, NY 10036

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