The Science of healing a broken heart

16 08 2011

Hannah Poon (AIT-2013)

Medium: Mixed Media

Wood burning on wood, Acrylic plexi-glass, wire, cardboard, fabric, bubble wrap, pins

Topic Abstract:

This piece features 3 anatomical hearts burned into wood.  Each wood burned piece is placed inside an acrylic plexi-glass box.  In the first box, the wood burned heart is sitting on top of cardboard tubes wrapped in wire; protruding on the surface of the heart are metal pins.  The second box is filled with bubble wrap and the heart sits in the box with some of the pins and a set of tweezers scattered around it. In the last box, the heart now free of metal pins sits in red and white fabric.  The last acrylic plexi-glass box is the most evenly constructed unlike the other two boxes which have panels that are jagged or crooked representing the change and healing that has occurred. 


Transformative change can happen on three levels of society, on the macro level influencing governments and politics, on a mezzo level influencing institutions and communities; and on a micro level influencing individuals.  The image of the heart represents the heart of the matter regardless of what level of society the change is happening.  Transformative change as described by Corbitt and Nix-Early has three stages: critical awareness, working out and celebration (Corbitt & Nix-Early, 2003, p. 62).   This piece is an exploration on the stages of transformative change and the elements needed for change to happen and be restorative.

The wood pieces are placed in acrylic plexi-glass boxes to imitate the idea of petri dishes reflecting our desire to dissect things and understand things.  In the critical awareness stage, not only must attention be brought to the issue, the artist must dissect and learn about what the issue is that they are trying to bring light to.   In “Taking it to the streets: using the arts to transform your community”, the role of the prophetic artist is to “create critical awareness of the need for change” (Corbitt & Nix-Early, 2003, p. 98).  The prophetic artist brings attention to the issue once they have had a chance to familiarize themselves with it.

The first heart is covered with metal pins representing the barriers to healing but as the viewer moves to the next 2 boxes, the pins are removed until the last heart has no pins. In the second box, there is a set of tweezers with the pins that have been already removed.  The idea is that there is some greater power, instigator, or catalyst that is removing these pins.  The role of the Agape artist does just that.  Through their compassion, the Agape artist facilitates the working out stage. In this stage “the person, community or society attempts to work out the problem through a variety of strategies until a solution is reached” (Corbitt & Nix-Early, 2003, p. 62).
Each box is filled with a different material as the background.  Each represents the time it takes for change to happen.  In the first box, the cardboard tubes wrapped in wire represent the years of cyclical bondage that has kept healing from the heart.  In the second box the bubble wrap is used to convey the idea of protection and care.  The process of removing the pins needs to be buffered by a safe space and trust must be developed before any change can happen.

The red and white fabric in the last box represents the redemptive and transformational change that is happening to the heart.  This brings us to the last stage of change: the celebration.  Celebrative artists at this point would take the lead on finding creative ways to celebrate the change and healing in the individual, community, and/or government.  They “provide an opportunity to celebrate renewal for people, community, church and society” (Corbitt & Nix-Early, 2003, p. 113).


I used scrap wood that a friend gave me from his work site.  Cutting it into 4X5 pieces, I used a wood burner to burn the images of the anatomic heart onto it. Then I cut a sheet of plexi-glass to make 3 square box trays to house the wood pieces.  I filled the box trays with cardboard tubes wrapped in wire, bubble wrap and fabric.  Then I pushed sewing pins into the hearts.

Intended audience:

The intended audience and placement for this piece will be at Studio C, a gallery space associated with my work place.  Every March there is a facilitator’s show and I plan to submit this piece for next year’s show.  The intended audience for this piece would be other artists/art spectators but primarily it would be for social workers and individuals who have worked towards social justice pursuits in their life.  This piece will hopefully engage in a dialogue of the reflection of social justice work.   It is also my own reflection to my own practice and what has worked or not worked.


I had a lot of trouble with cutting the plexi-glass.  I originally wanted to make each box the same but did not have the proper tools/experience to do so.  I adapted by using the uneven pieces to strengthen my concept.  The first box represents an individual, community, or society at a broken state.  The uneven pieces added to the concept as the box itself is not perfect.  As the viewer moves towards the 3rd box, the plexi-glass panels are less jagged and uneven.

I also had a lot of trouble finding a clear adhesive that was strong enough to hold the plastic together.  I first tried using clear silicone but the material was too flexible.  I then tried using a hot glue gun and that was also unsuccessful.  I finally found a glue call weld-on (thanks to a friend in the film set industry that had some experience working with plastics) that seems to do the job.




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