With one of my biggest shows of the year coming up in two days (it’s the spring Royal Bison for all those of you local to Edmonton – check it out!) I thought I would share the process behind my new heart sculptures.
I was first inspired to make these hearts when I visited the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia. This was actually one of the most interesting places my brother and I went on our two month road trip around the States and I highly recommend it. The focus of the museum is on the history of medicine and “medical oddities”. Along with plenty of information, the small building is crammed with human body parts in jars and models of body parts. Definitely not for the faint of heart, you could spend hours looking at all the beautiful and grotesque items on display. And we did. My favourites were the intricate models that had been made to teach about different organs like the heart or the lungs. Not having 3-D printers, these were painstakingly made with super fine layers of paper mache and painted by hand. They were breath-taking. Something in me clicked that day and I left with a desire to turn the shapes from the human body into artwork.
That fall I made my first heart for a friend. Using 3-D images online as a guide, I balled up newspaper to make the meaty part, then used toilet paper tubes to form the various passageways, holding it all together with masking tape. I covered the whole thing in paper mache, then collaged and painted it, using cut paper to form the veins. I gave it to my friend on her birthday, not sure if she would love it or think it was super weird. She loved it, and still has it 5 years later. A few years later I made one for my boyfriend on our first Valentines Day. He suggested that I make them for my I Heart Edmonton line and I was really excited about the idea. I decided to close that line of art before I got around to making the hearts but the idea stuck and now I finally have some for sale.
The main ingredients for these have stayed the same: balled-up newspaper, toilet paper tubes, and masking tape. To get the finish I collage pieces of maps alternating with beige tissue paper and paint, adding several layers to create depth. I was inspired to use the tissue paper when I looked down at my hand one day and saw the translucent skin stretching over the veins. I finish it by painting on the veins and covering it in a protective varnish.
You can purchase these hearts at the Royal Bison this weekend, and online in the near future. Sign up for email updates to find out more.
If you live in Edmonton and want to learn more about how I make my art, I will be teaching two workshops this month. Sign up on the right for details.