Lonely Hearts is a series of metaphorical portraits in which I have used hearts in compositions with figures to depict the many different types of love that we experience. Sometimes overt, sometimes subtle, the symbol is paired with the faces and hands of young people personifying ways in which this emotion can be felt, given, and shown.
The ideas behind this series were sparked by themes and discoveries from the Forty Fridas portfolio. Two prints from that project, Elaine as Frida and Ava as Frida, show the girls wearing heart-shaped brooches pinned to their left shoulders. While in the context of the portfolio, these “dress-up” hearts were meant to echo the anatomical hearts that Frida Kahlo often exposed in her own self portraits, I was struck by the earnestness that the addition of the hearts seemed to add. These two girls appeared to be unabashedly embodying the idiom of one who wears her heart on her sleeve. I liked they way in which this symbol, combined with a steady gaze, says to the viewer, “This is how I love.” With the Lonely Hearts, I explore these ideas with more diversity.
The earliest portraits from this series will be displayed with other print projects in a solo show, Connections, at Wally Workman Gallery in 2014. While the other works in that show—including prints from Indirectly Attached, Color Wheels, and A Small Production of Alice in Wonderland—focus more directly on the theme of connection through multiple interacting figures linked by painterly filaments, or the use of diptychs or polyptychs in which shapes continue from one panel to the next, the connection of the Lonely Hearts is much more that between subject and viewer.
Initially, at least, the figures have all been young, and most make direct eye contact. I have chosen youths for several reasons: the historical precedent for using women and children to personify abstract concepts in art, the fact that very often the experience of feeling love makes one feel young and vulnerable, and the hope that a viewer is likely to recognize himself or herself and identify with an early experience that can be universal, while at the same time specifically unique.
With this ongoing series, I continue to explore narrative portraiture. Through focused, serial projects such as this one, Forty Fridas, and A Small Production of Alice in Wonderland, I hope to make larger discoveries about the human condition, identity creation and development, and our relationships to one another.