A Painting for the Broken Hearted

Describing heart failure in painting has been my focus in the studio this week. Today I began a new painting, Pomegranates in a Hypertrophic Heart. I could say I chose to combine these two elements because some research has shown that juice of the pomegranate is effective in reducing heart disease risk factors including LDL oxidation, macrophage oxidative status and foam cell formation which are all are steps in atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. But the stronger reason a parallel that strikes me; cutting open a ripe pomegranate exposing it's gem-like treasure of gleaming fat seeds inside, and looking at the inside of the human heart with it's sinuous and complex trebeculae, papillary muscles and chordae. Neither the exterior of the heart nor the fruit give hint of the delicate structures within.

Hearts have been on my mind more than usual because I recently came face to face with the subject of my art, aspects of our mortality, in an unexpected way. I attended at a party where the only people I knew were my host, and one other woman. Though we'd only met once or twice before through our friend, I was also the only person in the room that she knew, so we made the most of our mutual if limited familiarity. She asked after my work and seemed intensely interested in my residency paintings, with probing questions that I found difficult but too important to politely deflect. Discussing my own history and what lead me to exploration of pathways of mortality as expressed in painting is nearly as difficult for me as doing the painting itself. But soon she mentioned that she is suffering from some profound and unresolved cardiac issues that make her fear for her future, and the impact her health issues on her young family. She clearly found in me someone outside of her closer social circle with whom she could confide her worry, confusion and fear. Having worked in cardiac departments of hospitals as a staff medical illustrator for 10 years, I could give her some advice about how best to get the answers and advice she needed (go to the nurses!!!). But mainly I think I was an ear and a shoulder for a topic usually too taboo for happy hour drinks.

I would hope to enlist this series of paintings in similar service. Open up the topic. Start a conversation among friends who may be holding back. It's not too much to ask of a friend, but I find the Australian culture (as compared with my native American) quite reserved on topics that personal. A picture can say a thousand words. And prompt even more. Pomegranates in a Hypertrophic Heart is for a lovely woman with a broken heart.

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