Get a load of this - art that’s about something else besides art! A mammoth sculpture of two hands rising from the dark waters of the Grand Canal in front of Venice’s historic Ca’ Sagredo Hotel is the sort of artwork that can make a difference in the world at large. Called “Support,” the artist Lorenzo Quinn, worried about global warming, is calling attention to it. “Venice is a floating art city that has inspired cultures for centuries,” he said through the Halcyon Gallery that represents him. “But to continue to do so, it needs the support of our generation and future ones because it is threatened by climate change and time decay.”

All hands on deck

The hands Quinn crafted are those of a child’s jacked up to a giant’s size as if from the land of Lilliput, reaching up as if drowning.

The subject of hands holds great significance to this artist. As he put it, they hold the power “to love, to hate, to create, to destroy.” His thinking is not unlike that of fellow Englishman and sculptor Henry Moore. When he was in his 80’s, he made a series of drawings of his own hands, saying how they can tell stories: “They can beg or refuse, take or give, be open or clenched, show content or anxiety.”

Turkey Lurkey, the sky is falling

Quinn is clearly feeling anxiety over all the record rainfall flooding low-lying Venice with up to five feet of water that causes power outages and mudslides to homes and businesses. The rise in sea levels has led to the slow sinking of the city. The innocent hands of a child, Quinn says, makes a powerful statement: “United we can make a stand to curb the climate change that affects us all.” In the end, though, you can ponder all the weather pattern reports there are, and all the geological evidence of climate change, but just one look at Quinn’s sculpture and you get the picture.

It’s not just that reality comes into view in an instant, but the exaggerated size has the effect of not leaving you alone even after you stop looking at it. It’s all in those beseeching hands.

Sign of the times

Some of art history’s best-known artists have used hands to tell a story. Perhaps the most famous are those in Michelangelo’s fresco “Creation of Adam” painted on the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

The iconic image describes the beginning of us all with the first human’s outstretched hand receiving the spark of life from the hand of God. An example of hands in art closest to Quinn’s pair is Salvador Dali’s “Portrait of a Passionate Woman.” Just substitute a female’s hands for the child’s similarly disembodied and beseeching, except they reach up from a barren desert. And while Dali’s work was painted in 1945, it speaks of the same desperate need for rescue. You might call these images a sign of modern times.