‘Hardened Hearts’

By on December 5, 2018

Local artist creating awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault

For the late artist David Leese, there were more than 38 kinds of hearts, from greedy hearts to warm hearts.

His exhibit “Hardened Hearts” centering on the human heart was on display Nov. 30 at the Emerald Community Campus at 2120 Oregon Pike. The exhibit was a part of two initiatives aimed at creating awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault.


Patricia Leese, from Manheim, feels it’s important to carry on her late husband’s work, stressing the many ways the human heart can express itself. She lost her husband, late artist David Leese, to a sudden illness in May 2014 when the couple lived in Allentown.

There was a blue heart made of plaster of Paris, with the words: NO MORE hardened hearts from sexual assault. There was a purple heart that said: NO MORE hardened hearts from domestic violence. Each was made into posters, while the gallery was lined with prints of Leese’s 38 three-dimensional hearts.

“Fifty percent of the proceeds from the sales of the posters will go to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence,” said Patricia Leese, his widow. “These subjects are difficult to discuss and tend to be hidden away. They affect people of all ages, genders, races, religions and economic backgrounds.” Patricia Leese, who now lives in Manheim, feels that it is important to carry on her husband’s work, stressing the many ways the human heart can express itself. She lost her husband to a sudden illness in May 2014 when the couple lived in Allentown.

“At the time his gallery was filled with his plaster of Paris hearts. They were everywhere,” recalls Leese. It broke her heart to see all her husband’s carved hearts. One if them said: A Hole in my Heart.

“I became committed to carrying on his work and sharing it with others,” says Leese. “It was a way to remember what began as a chance discovery.” Back in 2014, David Leese poured some excess plaster of Paris into a old heart-shaped candy box. It was the kind of box you give your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day, filled with chocolates. The plaster cured and Leese removed the casting that the box had created. The result was a hardened heart with creases, markings, empty spaces, holes and spaces. Leese was intrigued by his accidental sculpture. With its random markings, he compared it to a scarred heart, much like his own that had had many experiences in life. As he wrote: “It’s a heart that bears the scars and patches of a life well-lived.

Back in 2014, David Leese poured some excess plaster of Paris into a old heart-shaped candy box. It was the kind of box you give your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day, filled with chocolates.

Every loss, every gain along with every joy and every pain were represented. It was a Hardened Heart that has withstood the test of time and still beats on with warmth and passion.” Patricia Leese hopes that her husband’s art project and the posters will reach the eyes of men and women of all ages, from young people who are still developing their views on relationships and the opposite sex, to those who may find themselves, a friend, or a family member, in an unhealthy situation and need support to get out.

“The goal is to one day live in a society that can offer good health, well-being, and quality of life to all children and adults, in the comfort of their own homes, schools, workplaces and communities,” she says. While she is grateful for her own happy marriage to a talented artist, she still feels the heartbreak of losing him so unexpectedly.

The plaster cured and Leese removed the casting that the box had created. The result was a hardened heart with creases, markings, empty spaces, holes and spaces.

“You need to show your love and appreciate every moment with your loved ones,” says Leese, who later moved to Manheim to be near family. The “Hardened Hearts” exhibit was part of the Emerald Foundation’s community outreach at the Emerald Community Campus, which was previously the location of the Jewish Community Center. Known as the “E,” the center offers educational opportunities, non-profit programs, and rental subsidies for non-profit organizations.

The center has gallery spaces for emerging artists, meeting rooms for programs, speaker series on topics that include drug awareness and school diversity, and the poignant Holocaust Memorial Wall.

Organizations such as the Literacy Council, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region, KPETS pet therapy program, Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania, Special Olympics, and Parkinson’s Circle of Care Alliance utilize the Emerald Foundation’s facilities. To find out more, check emeralde.org.

Laura Knowles is a freelance feature writer and regular contributor to the Record Express. She can be reached at lknowles21@gmail.com. 

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