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Cold hand, meet warm heart

| Saturday, Dec. 1, 2007

They're single and alone. They're tarot card representations of separation and abandonment.

They're gloves, lost in a careless moment and left on the city sidewalks, gutters or parking garages.

And they wait to be claimed on www.onecoldhand.com .

Visitors to the site can view photos of more than 20 gloves, along with the location and date of each glove's rescue. Those who recognize their missing mitten can claim it via e-mail. Those who find a glove can turn it in.

The site was created by Jennifer Gooch, a master's of fine arts candidate in the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University.

A native of the music and university town of Denton, Texas, Gooch experienced her first Pittsburgh winter last year. One cold day in February, she discovered her first orphan -- a lady's leather glove near Whole Foods in East Liberty.

"Last winter I started thinking of these sad lumps on the sidewalk, useless without their mates," she says.

By the time she launched the site on the weekend of Nov. 10, she had collected more than a dozen gloves from friends and from her own cycling trips around the city. She photographs each glove and posts it on the site. She also has printed up stickers that can be used to mark the spot where a glove is found and provide the owner with the Web address should they come back to look for it.

"The great thing about the site is that there's this naive hope that people will be able to reunite the gloves," Gooch says. "More than anything, the site provides a system for the finders."

While she has yet to reunite a single one of her 23 gloves with its mate, she insists it's not a case of gloves labors lost. She conceived the site not only as an online lost-and-found, but as a work of art that argues for the need for human contact.

Gooch's previous projects often used the human hand and the Internet to explore issues of community and alienation. Last year, she set up a free "Hand Holding" table on sidewalks in the Strip District, Oakland and East Liberty.

"There's lots of mild losses," Gooch says. "People drop things all the time. But the glove -- it needs its partner to be successful."

At her studio on the Carnegie Mellon campus, her charges are pinned up like limp butterflies, along with small notes by the finders. Each seems to project a personality. A woman's rust-colored chenille glove, found in Highland Park, features a whimsical poodle-like ruff at the wrist. A man's large Thinsulate glove, discovered in East Liberty, hints at afternoons spent in the pursuit of some robust outdoor sport.

Together, this motley group of expatriates symbolizes fragile optimism.

Gooch has been talking with local business owners about the possibility of installing drop boxes. She hopes the trend will spread to other cities -- One Cold Hand Chicago, One Cold Hand Seattle.

She also is setting up a post office box so people will be able to mail lost gloves to her for inclusion on the site.

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