Drawing Hearts for my Son – The Art of Struggle

Artwork: “Wanted, Chosen, Planned” Mixed Media, September 2010 © Alexis Marie Chute

I was well over halfway to my due date when doctors discovered that my unborn child had a large tumor around his heart. This news began a month and a half of daily testing to determine if there was anything that could be done. There wasn’t and my son Zachary passed away shortly after he was born.

During the month and a half before Zachary’s birthday and death day, I made art. I made art based on the news we were given and the new world of medical technology and imaging that was opened up to me. I was so overwhelmed on a daily basis that art became my therapy. It was a means for me to think about our situation in an effort to make sense of it all. I now know I will never understand the “why” of this tragedy but that creating art in that time was a helpful means to cope.

As the main issue with my son’s condition was the tumor around his heart, I began to draw anatomical hearts using black pen. I made three copies of my favorite drawing using a laser printer and painted three backdrops in flowing reds and blues, two colours associated with blood flow that I watched in real time on the monitor during many fetal echocardiograms of my son’s heart.

I did gel transfers to apply the hearts to the paintings, the abstracted reds and blues of the painted backgrounds showing through the images. I applied a sheer aqua fabric to the areas surrounding the hearts, sewing it on with red thread which I let hang loosely in certain places. The blue, water like effect, references the fact that a heart that is not beating properly, as in the case of my son, causes fluid to build up in a person’s body.

Black bars along the bottom of the compositions anchor the three pieces together and reveal the words that constantly ran through my brain as I struggled in the helplessness of trying to save my son. Wanted. Chosen. Planned. These three concepts became my mantra, my prayer during that dark time.


Have you used art to help work through a struggle? Please share your experience.

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