How Gesture Becomes Icon

Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California
Dorothea Lange, 1936

Nancy Kitchel's "grandmother's gesture" may be seen as a series of variations on a gesture of worry and anxiety codified in this photograph taken by Dorothea Lange as part of a New Deal project to document the misery of migrant workers, sponsored by the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression. "Migrant Mother" is one of the most-cited pictorial images of our times.

A repetition of gestures of this sort opens a conductive inference path between (in this case) Family and History. If Kitchel were doing our assignment this gesture would justify a search in documentation of "the Great Depression" to find a metaphor to express the mood of her Family circumstances.

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