For over 50 years, San Francisco has been synonymous with the heart, thanks to a certain Tony Bennett song.
In 2004, the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation first used an image of a heart for a fundraising public art project, Hearts in San Francisco, in which Bay Area artists created works on blank three-dimensional sculptures of varying sizes.
Many of these heart sculptures can be seen throughout the city, and each year the foundation commissions new artists to participate in the annual program that culminates in a Heroes & Hearts luncheon, this year scheduled for Feb. 15 at AT&T Park. Thirty-six new sculptures by 23 Bay Area artists will be displayed and auctioned at the luncheon, including works from several North Bay artists. Proceeds from the sale of the pieces go to life-saving programs at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.
Currently living in San Francisco, Santa Rosa native Angelina Duckett’s tiled mosaic art can be seen throughout Sonoma County in her work with educational program ArtStart and in large-scale projects like the Spring Lake Park Children’s Memorial bench mosaics.
“Over the past several years, I’ve been seeing these hearts all over San Francisco, and just thought they were the coolest things,” says Duckett. “Once I found out they were a way to create funds for the hospital, I decided I absolutely wanted to be involved.”
Duckett’s table-top-sized heart sculpture (shown, at left), titled I<3 California, is decorated in her signature mosaic style. Its depiction of a quail running through poppies was inspired by a childhood memory.
On Oct. 8 last year, Duckett had her then-half-finished heart sculpture with her while visiting family in Santa Rosa. In the fires that broke out that night, her brother lost his home and her family was evacuated from her parent’s house for over a week. “It was a really awful thing,” says Duckett. “But it was also heartwarming to see how much our community came together and supported each other.
“The original inspiration for my heart was the gratitude I have for being raised in such a beautiful place,” Duckett continues. “It ended up meaning so much more—all my love for my home, Santa Rosa and California as a whole.”
Guerneville-based metalworker John Haines also found new meaning in his heart sculpture, the only work in the project that doesn’t actually use the blank heart. Rather, Haines crafted a skeletal metal frame over a sculpted wooden heart suspended in air. Titled Where the Heart Is, the piece (shown, at right) balances in a space between constructive and organic. “I’m trying to take a handful of expressionism, full of something beautiful and fluid,” says Haines, “and then a handful of something that feels raw and indigenous.”
Haines was set to begin a much different-looking sculpture at the beginning of October, but the emotional heaviness of the wildfires moved him to create the piece in its current form. “I kept thinking, ‘When everything else is burned away, what is really at the center of what’s left?'”
Marin County–based painter and art educator Barbara Libby-Steinmann’s entry into the project is a triptych of mini-hearts painted to depict San Francisco’s wild parrots of Telegraph Hill. The playful work reflects Libby-Steinmann’s work as an art teacher at Bacich Elementary School in Kentfield. Last year, Libby-Steinmann was named Marin Teacher of the Year, and with the Hearts in San Francisco project, she got her students involved.
Once she was chosen to participate in the project, she took it to her classrooms and showed her students the process of designing and painting the three hearts. Libby-Steinmann also convinced the foundation to have her students collaborate on 25 two-dimensional paintings that will be online for purchase as part of the fundraiser. “It’s a full circle of my work,” says Libby-Steinmann.
Also based in Marin, artist John Kraft was chosen to create one of this year’s six largest sculptures. Measuring five feet tall and six feet wide, Kraft’s highly colorful heart involves hand-cut illustrations of flowers assembled as vines, leaves and other floral patterns set over a bright-red acrylic-painted background.
“The intent is simply to create joyful, colorful work,” says Kraft.
The hand-cut illustrations that make up the flower elements in Kraft’s piece are drawn from his own illustrations of San Francisco. “There are many layers of love of the city,” says Kraft. “Hearts in San Francisco is always a mix of celebrating the arts, the people and community of San Francisco, and celebrating the spirit of giving.”