That art makes manifest an artist’s inner dialog with their personal demons is a well accepted notion. The exhibit by Sam Hunter, now on display at James Madison University’s Sawhill Gallery, is a prime example of just such a revealing dialog, this time between an artist and their body.
Ms. Hunter, a recent transplant to Virginia by way of Southern California and originally England, presents us with an array of thoughtfully arranged and interestingly displayed fiber and mixed-media works that explore her response to a recent heart attack, and more importantly, her subsequent struggle to recover.
As Ms. Hunter put it, the “heart attack robbed, but it also gifted me something in return.” What the heart attack gifted appears to have been a new and conceptually powerful outlet for her art. Coping with the sudden shock of dealing with a heart that was no longer trustworthy, and the ongoing medical concerns of how best to move forward in life, Ms. Hunter shares “art has always saved me” and the work on display bears witness to that salvation.
Titles of work such as Apical Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy and Median Sternotomy might seem strange and medically remote, but the sensitive handling of the collected two and three-dimensional images and forms invite us to empathize and reflect on our own physical fragility. As the late, great Robert Arneson once shared “all works of art are a self-portrait.”
The self-portrait Ms. Hunter presents us with is a brave and interesting new vista to which we can all relate. Just listen to your heart beat. “Wearing My Heart on My Sleeve” Trough April 21. (Sawhill Gallery, Duke Hall, James Madison University, 800 S. Main St., Harrisonburg, VA., 540-568-6918.)
Written by Cole H. Welter
This post was submitted by Cole Welter.