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Working with frail seniors living at four On Lok locations in San Francisco, artist Rene Yung led workshops and one-on-one meetings through which she gathered images of the backs of their hands along with their stories about aging.  From these materials, Yung created four permanent installations consisting of framed glass panels that were photo-etched and powder-cut with images of the seniors’ hands and messages culled from her conversations with them.  The installed panels were grouped, illuminated, and mounted on the wall at the entrance lobby of each participating On Lok center.  Their development and unveiling was one of several events celebrating On Lok, Inc.’s 25th Anniversary.

The artist and organization wrote, “The hand is chosen to represent the process of aging because it is an eloquent map of a person’s journey through life.”  The pieces also reflect the diverse communities who are part of On Lok and who speak English, Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish, Tagalog, and other languages.

At the time she embarked on this project, among other installations, Yung had presented “The Opacity of Dreams” at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston and Hosfelt Gallery in San Francisco in 1996, and a permanent public art project at the Chinatown Branch of the San Francisco Public Library.

Started in 1971, On Lok’s mission is to provide quality care to the community’s frail elderly, so they can remain in their own homes and communities as long as possible. Through its other affiliate corporations, On Lok also provides various types of housing options for this population.  It serves its constituents at five sites throughout San Francisco.

Photo by Ethan Bien