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Hearts

Just as one's self will serve as constant in a world of otherwise shifting reference, a heart is sign that one can care, that there is a consistent presence of feeling. In a curious way this heart is neither inside nor outside oneself but, rather, exists in a hieratic determination of its own possibility, and so lives in a place that can be as powerfully singular and remote as the moon or as physically evident and contained as one's own hands, feet, and head.

This heart is an imagination, of course. One knows the actual heart looks not at all like those most familiar from the iconographic slogans of Valentine's Day—which seems itself an invention from faint root except that there must be one day on which, unequivocally, hearts triumph. Have a heart  . . .

It would be an error, however, to presume that these specific hearts are either symbolic or ultimately abstract. They are far more like weather, a shifting presence that has faces but is not itself a fixed content. More apt then to call them, among other things, a ground or context which serves as means for feeling out the possibilities of what is going on.

The insistent echoes of this image must have been delight to an artist so remarkably open to language and its powers. One can trust the associations here of everything from 'A heart as big as all

Jim Dine/Five Themes , ed. Graham W.J. Beal (New York: Abbeville Press, 1983).


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outdoors' to 'hardhearted' or 'broken-hearted' or, simply, 'The heart of the matter.' The language of the titles is a useful evidence of how variously this 'heart' can find occasion, whether it prove "I'm Painting with my Animals," where a veritable outside comes in to lean against the heart, or "Nancy and I at Ithaca (Straw Heart)" with its backward pun upon The Wizard of Oz . The point is that it does not stand for something else nor has it only a force determined by what it means, or wants to. As a presence it gathers resonance as would a cross or flag, even without information. Playing literalizing objects against it, or determining it as object also (as must be the case with "sheet iron and straw, 60 × 70 × 12 1/2"), leaves it much as a whale on a beach, persistently itself in whatever locus.

Therefore what changes is all else, and that is why one does engage in "Romancing in Late Winter" and "Painting a Fortress for the Heart." It is an elegant, fructifying image, often voluptuous in its provocatively paired French curves. Yet one feels the pain and frustration its emblem has incessantly borne with it, pierced with arrows, split in two, blackened, cracked. It wears its colors bravely.


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