The heart in art is generally scorned. Hearts have been overused by advertising and cast as the simplest and least meaningful of all icons. Simplified for a child, for the Valentine, and a quick way to imply love of every kind, the symbol has lost its real meaning. But the worst news is that it has been relegated to the feminine. Hearts are considered girly.
But everyone has a heart. Have you forgotten?
I wonder how the most important organ in our body became “silly” to anyone but little girls? Real men don’t wear hearts or buy heart art. I’ve not had one sale to a man, despite the fact that their own heart, ticking away, provides life itself — like their mother did for them before they could do it themselves.
So is the heart a reminder of mother, and thus to be avoided and derided by most as sentimental pablum (which also comes from mother). Is mother herself to be avoided?
When I was pregnant with my children in the 70s, I felt like mother earth. I felt wonderful and powerful but also, unfortunately, taken over by forces outside myself. This “taking over” was not the fun part. Having a baby is a train you cannot get off of easily and not for the fainthearted (me). I don’t know if men can understand what it means to be used as a delivery method for the human race. It is exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. When it’s over, you feel you have survived something monumental, and you have.
And you never forget that this person did not exist before it grew in you, attached to your heart, and its heart beat outside you that day and the next, and the next. It’s a miracle of nature that it so often turns out well.
Your heart is your core. It’s my core. It’s where I feel the most pain and suffer the most joy. So I use the heart in my art. Not as a meaningless decoration, and not as a quick path to sentiment, but as a tribute to the life you get to experience every new day that your heart continues to beat. Our hearts, our imperfect hearts, are a gift from our mothers.
Next time you see a heart represented in art or jewelry or even a bumper sticker, give it a break. Your mother would like that.