UNC Asheville sculpture student plays with ideas of love

Sarah Shadburne 

Assistant A&F Editor

sshadbur@unca.edu 

In a small studio tucked away in a remote corner of Carmichael Hall, three-dimensional hearts of all sizes decorate the walls. Every kind of heart is present: pierced hearts, hearts with mirrors inside them, twisted wire hearts, tiny heart-shaped honeycombs creating even larger heart displays, anatomical hearts and even a heart wearing panties. Shanna Glawson, a senior sculpture student from Forest City, investigates love.

“I’m actually going through a divorce,” Glawson said. “So this process has been about exploring some of that, as well as the physical and emotional side and exploring more of my own self love.”

Glawson’s senior thesis art project called “Eros, Agape and Other Heart Conditions,” explores love and the shape of the heart. Glawson sculpts anatomical as well as symbolic depictions of the heart, occasionally blending the two.

Photo by Tim Hayes.

“I actually was born with a heart condition called Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome,” Glawson said. “That led me to have heart surgery when I was 21-years-old and since then I’ve kind of latched onto this heart shape.”

Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome is a rare condition in which the heart has an extra electrical pathway, causing a rapid heartbeat. According to the Mayo Clinic, the condition is only discovered by chance during a heart exam and is usually not life threatening.

“The symbol of the heart shape is pretty prominent in all religions,” Glawson said. “It’s a vessel for your soul, it’s the place where you and God meet — inside your heart.”

Glawson takes particular interest in the iconography of the heart shape. Many of her sculptures call to mind famous religious depictions, such as the burning heart of St. Augustine and Sufi depictions of winged hearts with singular eyes.

“With my sculptures I’m trying to figure out how I can manipulate this form and do different variations to the same shape in order to get different feelings and references of love,” Glawson said. “I’ve explored into what the Greeks define as ‘Eros,’ which is our humanistic, sexual eroticness of the heart, as well as ‘Agape,’ which is more of a divine, spiritual love.”

Glawson finds herself leaning more toward the spiritual side of love these days. When she mentally examines past relationships, she said she notes feelings of insecurity she mistook for love. Through these ponderings, her spiritual love becomes more of a process of discovering and experiencing self love.  

“Even through all these really crappy relationships, exploring the romantic side is kind of fun,” Glawson said. “I’ve always been able to keep the hope intact. I think that’s carried me through more than anything else.”

Glawson works with one of her faculty advisors, Jackson Martin, assistant professor of art, who has guided her work for the past two and a half years.

“Shanna is both talented and ambitious,” Martin said. “Having a strong studio work ethic and the willingness to work hard to achieve goals is infinitely valuable.”

Glawson said her work takes anywhere between three weeks and six months to complete depending on her level of involvement. She often starts many sculpture projects at once to get her ideas down and see what takes off and what falls flat.

“Shanna has taken some extremely recognizable symbols, reproduced countless times by our culture,” Martin said. “With sculpture, Shanna is able to fully develop her ideas and engage her viewer in-the-round.”

Shanna Glawson works on her senior sculpture exhibit. Photo by Tim Hayes.

Glawson notes a meaningful duality within the heart that informs some of the ways she plays with combining the anatomical heart and the symbolic heart.

“I have this cool part of my paper where I talk about the heart as a sexual organ,” Glawson said. “It’s both throbbing like a male but it’s also able to be wounded and be penetrated like a woman. There’s this give and take.”

Brittany Klutz, senior art student and painter from Charlotte, considers the role of love in her life. Klutz and her girlfriend Christine have been together for almost three years now.

“For me personally right now — and it can’t be like this in every case — but it seems like my friends and family have somewhat abandoned me,” Klutz said. “So naturally right now romantic love is the most important to me.”

Love can be motivational due to its passion. It’s not all positive. Sometimes love creates hurt and anger, but it gives a person a lot of content to express, Klutz said.

“Loving someone can be a super spiritual thing,” Klutz said. “Giving yourself to a person and being vulnerable can naturally be a spiritual thing.”

Glawson intends to make viewers question their own feelings when they view her pieces. She wants the juxtaposition between sacred and profane to arouse her viewers’ curiosity, speaking to her own discoveries between the triumphant and pitiful within the heart.

“Eros, Agape and Other Heart Conditions” will be available for viewing in the S. Tucker Cooke gallery in Owen Hall beginning Oct. 27-Nov. 7.

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