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Emma Luna, Hearts, Sacred and Profane  
Neil Larsen, Ph.D.,
of Latin American Literature and critical theory.
Program in Comparative Literature, Program in Critical Theory

September 10, 2006

Familiar as a religious icon and even more so as one of the most ubiquitous symbols in popular culture, the heart truly starts beating again in the artistic imagination when one first sees the utterly unique ceramic sculptures here assembled in an installation for SOFA 2006. 
Widely-known ceramic artist Emma Luna, a native of the Dominican Republic currently residing in California, has produced these objects using a variety of materials and techniques: porcelain and red terra cotta clay subjected to both smoke- and saggar firing (the latter a process in which the oxidization of natural materials such as sea weed is used in place of glaze to add color.) 
But the technical virtuosity evident in these sculptural objects blends imperceptibly into metaphor, from the ironic and playful to the excruciatingly painful. 
Hearts nailed, sliced, shattered and ripped apart and then repaired with wires and safety-pins or pieced together again like puzzles are juxtaposed alongside hearts with windows, nooks and ladders, musical hearts, hearts written-over and even a heart with a keyhole. 
The idea here works as an assemblage because the underlying image of the heart is so completely familiar—becoming the perfect vehicle for visual metaphor—
but also an ideal, because endlessly variable, sculptural form.

Not surprisingly, there is an unusual history to this idea. 
Luna first began experimenting with her hearts while working as a resident artist and Fulbright fellow at the Altos de Chavón Design Institute in the Dominican Republic in 2003. 
A small archeological museum at the Institute contained a collection of ancient ceramic vessels—known as potizas--made centuries ago by the Tainos, the native, pre-Columbian inhabitants of the island.  Ritual objects—probably fertility symbols—the potizas are also heart-shaped. 
Having been fascinated with these relics of a now vanished people ever since her childhood in Santo Domingo, Luna, upon seeing them again, in effect found an artistic way to restore them to life, rather than simply reproducing them in a literal fashion.
(There is also some hidden Dominican history—and humor—in Luna’s accompanying bundles of beautiful ceramic peapods.
The Spanish for pod is “vaina,” a word with many meanings in popular Caribbean parlance but which, when exclaimed --¡qué vaina!—expresses a unique combination of exasperation and stoic determination to survive.)

You can, indeed, almost hear the Spanish word for heart—“corazón,” with its musical suggestion of interior space and its endless poetic and romantic associations—
echoing inside these fantastic objects.

Towel sets  

Natura Morta