WHY ALL THE ANATOMICAL HEARTS?
Feb 10, 2022
Anatomical hearts figure hugely in my work, and have since the early 90's. THAT'S ALMOST 30 YEARS OF WORKING WITH THE IMAGE OF THE HUMAN HEART. So, why is it so compelling for me?
In the beginning, it was simply a symbol of emotional intensity. I have always been a person with BIG feelings, and giving the heart a BIG role in my art (particularly my early self-portraits) just felt appropriate. Ah, the utter self-absorption of youth!
But you can see from the piece below that the themes in my work have stayed consistent - the human forms, the heart, the hand, even the bits of text hidden in the surface.
"Self Portrait," approximately 24" x 15", acrylic on canvas, mid-1990's
As my own self and my work developed, however, the heart has come to mean so much more. It is a muscle, about the same size as the human fist, but so much more powerful. Yes, the heart is symbolically the seat of emotion, but also of EMOTIONAL LABOR. This is where the work gets done.
Those arteries and veins make connections throughout the human body. They carrying the oxygen and nutrients our cells need to survive, the hormones that trigger growth, and carry away the waste materials that need processing. This is such a huge metaphor for the ways that we reach out to others, making connections, opening our hearts, delivering and receiving what is so essential to our survival as humans. And - for the ways that our connections feed us, enliven us, help us grow.
And now, the heart has become a symbol of home for me as well. If we feel easy in our hearts, we are feeling at home with ourselves, with our actions and our choices. And we can make room for people in our hearts - giving them a home there, as they make homes for us. I sometimes imagine that different people close to me are residing in different chambers. One person has a big comfy chair and a bunch of books; another has a window with a view of forest. Each custom-made to make that person feel safe and held and loved.
Even after 30 years, the beat is strong. Below, is a painting I started on during my at-home residency in January. It's still in process, I don't know quite where it will land yet, but the themes are all still there.
"In the Neighborhood", in process February 2022, 24" x 24", encaustic on panel