Heart Garden by Louise Saxton

Materials: Reclaimed needlework, lace pins, nylon tulle
Technique: Bass-relief assemblage on a pastel-coated, museum foam core base
H 108 x W 82 cm

“A human heart motif has become a garden filled with the exquisite hand-work of many anonymous makers and also some belonging to family members of friends and acquaintances. I thank them all for their contributions and dedicate this work to them.”

heartFrom May 2013 I had the privilege of a year-long artist residency at Caritas Christi Hospice in Kew. The residency program is part of the Mission of St Vincent’s which is also referred to as a “mission of the heart”. It was this idea that I responded to in creating ‘Heart Garden’ as my donated art work for the collection.

I shared the idea of a garden made from reclaimed needlework in the form of a human heart, with the art curator Monique Silk who suggested it might be appropriate for the newly refurbished St Vincent’s Cardiac Centre, in Fitzroy. (Also referred to as the ‘heart centre’, you can imagine my excitement).

The initial inspiration for the ‘Heart Garden’ predates my residency at Caritas Christi to 2012, when I was an exhibiting artist at Heide Museum of Modern Art. Heide is known for its gardens including a small but significant one in the shape of a romantic love-heart, which was planted by the owner and art patron Sunday Reed in 1949. I imagined a ‘Heart Garden’ taking the form of a human heart and so, it is with delight that the work I envisaged two years ago has been created and, will find a permanent home in the St Vincent’s Hospital Heart Centre.

Every fragment of needlework in the ‘Heart Garden’ has been extracted from a doily or tablecloth, collected in opportunity shops and markets or donated by friends, family and acquaintances. Several special pieces, such as the Tiger lilies, were passed along to me from people’s family collections – made by their mothers, grandmothers or aunties. The embroidery and lace is mostly hand-made dating from the 1920s through 1940s, which was a strong era for domestic needlework and, gives the ‘Heart Garden’ a sense of time past.

Included within ‘the garden’ are embroidered flowers, birds, butterflies and dragonflies and various lace motifs from many different countries – Australia, China, England, France, Hungary, Japan, Poland and Vietnam. In this respect, the ‘Heart Garden’ symbolises the cross-cultural nature of needlework and the fact that we all share this magnificent organ – a human heart.

Louise Saxton

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