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Those Crazy Artists: Jim Dine

Posted by Heidi Denessen on

With Valentines Day just around the corner, exploring the 'heart art' of Jim Dine seems on point.
Eight Hearts (1970)
Jim Dine, the American born artist, was a self dedicated creator from a very early age. He received his B.F.A. in 1957, moved to New York, and embarked on an art practice that has lasted for over 4 decades. Jim Dine is now in his 80’s and continues to produce and deepen, having had contributed a unique and strong voice to pertinent art movements, his acclamations being too numerous to list. He reflects;
“I was drawing since I was two years old. I never thought of anything else.”
It makes wonderful sense then that the symbol of the heart, at the center of human experience has been a constant symbol in his work. His first artistic endeavors were performance related, working alongside famed peers Claes Oldenburg and Allan Kaprow among others, with their groundbreaking work, Happenings, in New York in the early 1960’s. After this however he was drawn back into his very personal practices of drawing and printmaking, sculpture and poetry. The heart symbol then came alive, and though Jim was starting to deeply explore his own psyche, he wasn’t leaving the outside world for the inner one, he was creating a bridge for the viewer to explore their own relationship to the heart as well as other reoccurring symbology he uses; common tools, housewares, and his famous bath robe. He has created every sort of heart imaginable, and when asked about them and how many he thinks he’s produced, he famously says;
...I have no idea but it’s mine and I use it as a template for all my emotions. It’s a landscape for everything...”
A self professed nomad, his hearts reflect this, a life of living and feeling his way across multiple landscapes, mediums, timelines, timezones, and human emotions. He’s been married, had children, and traveled or lived and worked in many cities and it seems a heart shrine has been made for each of these events. There are large sculptural pieces like the Twin 6’ Hearts (1999), a set of side by side bronzed red and black hearts and other such sculptures in greened patinated tones. There are bold paintings and prints like his piece Hand-painted Afrika (2005), and monochromatic melancholy pieces like Welcome Home Rare Birds (1969). Some hearts are personified with names like Ginger and Uni or Helga and some inanimate like The new building or The colourful wall. Hundreds of them grace gallery walls and personal collections all around the world now, with more charismatic ones to come, to be sure.
When you hear Jim Dine speak about his art, it’s easy to feel his intelligent and empathic nature that gives rise to this keen ability to mirror inner human lives and objective realities cultural narratives alike. He is humorous, mostly laughing at himself, and a very well thought man, his heart alive, and himself, an unstoppable creator.
Twin 6’ Hearts (1999)
Hand-Painted Afrika (2005)
Welcome Home Rare Birds (1969)
Ginger and Uni (1996)

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