1,568 Sawdust Hearts Project

Artist: Jennifer Weston Date: 2018 Medium: Mixed media Dimensions:

This heart was decorated specifically for the 1,568 Sawdust Hearts Project to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War. It was curated by Helen Birmingham and hosted by Woodend Gallery, Scarborough, North Yorkshire, England. The project displayed 1568 sawdust hearts, which were decorated to reflect the theme of remembrance.

Where Are You Now My Love (Heart Number 0720)

Both sides of the heart were decorated with fabric, pins and found objects.

One side of the heart comments on the terrible tension that families endured waiting for news from the front line.

Was no news good news?

Were regular letters feasible?

And then the ambiguous telegram stating ‘missing in action’.

Families really wanted to know what had happened to their ‘boys on the frontline’. This began a wave of interest in Spiritualism.  The Christian spiritualist church grew as families sought ‘contact with their loved ones who had passed away in active service via the occult.

The beach pebble and sea glass resemble the pointer of a Ouija board, which I wire wrapped and affixed to the heart. The words ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ offer the answer to a multitude of difficult questions. The names that surround the edge are taken from popular war poets; a haunting list of the men who were now in spirit.

The other side contains the words, ‘Lost,’ ‘Hell,’ ‘Damaged,’ ‘Captured,’ ‘PTSD,’ ‘Destroyed’ indicating that even though alive, the remaining soldiers were altered in ways which were unforeseen.

Damaged and living within their own personal hell.

In making this piece I strived to comment on the intense stress military personnel endure during war time and the potential ‘unseen’ damage war causes. Shell shock was born under the abysmal circumstances of trench warfare and many men who return homed relived the horrors of the past repeatedly.

So many current military personnel also suffer from PTSD; becoming lost in past trauma of a horrific conflict in which they were aware that death was just a shot away. Returning to the responsibilities of civilian life must seem so trivial and pointless after seeing the appalling suffering that humans imposed upon each other.  

Neuroscience is currently discovering the ways that the brain changes through extreme stress, thank goodness for organisations like Combat Stress that support military personnel through difficult times.

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