Talking Hands – Watch My Nails Don’t Watch Me

Pamela Council

Inspired by Amber Wagner’s messages to the world under her social media handle @jstlbby and high femme legacies of ministry, artist Pamela Council presents Talking Hands – Watch My Nails Don’t Watch Me (2021). Ms. Wagner, through her motivational messages of faith and positivity, has created a visual language with her hands that she generously offers over to Council’s playful direction. Featuring nail art by Britney Fahie, the work admires Wagner’s well-manicured hands interacting with nourishing materials, including oil, fruits, and hair beads, or engaging in self-soothing gestures on a phone call to a friend. Tactile vignettes with saturated backdrops are punctuated intermittently by motion-trail effects, which harken to pop music videos, sci-fi, and religious iconography. Whether squeezing fruit or caressing soft surfaces, Ms. Wagner’s hands are a work of art, expressing multitudes and moving with deliberation.

Talking Hands – Watch My Nails Don’t Watch Me was created by Council for Times Square and will be presented in conjunction with their major public art commission, A Fountain for Survivors.

"Long fingernails get your attention—hypervisibility. They also give the person wearing them access to a whole new language and way of carrying on. When she talks to us, Amber Wagner takes her nails and points them back at us. Now we feel seen. It’s subversive; it’s ministry. I see my praxis working as this kind of mirror as well, so I was honored that Ms. Wagner accepted the invitation to come play in my artistic world. I’m interested in how nails are a site—both architecture and technology—for ripe cultural conversations about the politics of beauty, movement, the right to luxuriate, surveillance, and so much more. With our nails, we can make our points clear.“

—Pamela Council

Featuring Amber Wagner / @jstlbby
Nail art: Britney Fahie / @balleriina.brit
Director: Pamela Council / @pamelacouncil
Director of Photography: Vashni Korin /
Editor: Kyra Thompson /
Assistant Camera: Taylor Garcia / @taylorhgarcia
Art Direction & Set Design: Pamela Council
Shot on location at Reparations Club /

Curator: Anna Harsanyi / @anna1harsanyi