A Labor of Love

BY Emily Colin

In his classic novel “The Little Prince ” Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote “Here is my secret a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

It is perhaps ironic that Wilmington metalsmith Mitzy Jonkheer who has built her career by creating stunning visual artwork of all kinds places the greatest significance on what the audience cannot see — the sentiment behind her pieces. Jonkheer often incorporates hearts in her work.

Sometimes this is subtle like a hidden gold heart on the back of a piece and sometimes it is quite the contrary: A community-wide celebration of creative diversity with the image of a heart at its core.

Each year Jonkheer invites a select group of artists to participate in her multimedia Heart Art Show and Sale timed to coincide with Valentine’s Day and held at her Wrightsville Avenue studio.

The concept behind the show is simple. Participating artists receive a blank wooden heart a tabula rasa on which they can express their own personal style and vision.

“I handcraft each of the hearts from recycled wood donated or purchased from local sources ” Jonkheer says. “The show is truly a labor of love from start to finish.”

Artists are given a month to complete their heart and deliver it for display and sale. The finished pieces paint an incredible picture of what love means to many of our community’s most accomplished artists. Some radiate joy; others reflect an acerbic wit; a few embody the longing of unrequited love.

The artists’ media are as diverse as their sentiments. Some merely paint their hearts while others carve them char them with torches collage them with imagery cover them with metal plaster them with photographs incorporate lines of poetry or adorn them with recycled materials such as old buttons or sea glass. The only limits exist in the artists’ imaginations.

“I have tremendous respect for hands-on craftsmanship ” Jonkheer says. “You can tread lightly on the earth explore aspects of recycling old jewelry pieces and still create a great heart.”

This year marks the Heart Art Show’s fifth year in its current venue. The event has become a Port City tradition for artists and customers alike.

“Each year come January artists approach me asking ‘Where are the hearts?'” Jonkheer says. “I start hearing the same thing from customers around the holidays. There’s a lot of excitement around the show and some folks come year after year.”

Previous participants include Dumay Gorham Pam Toll Sally Mason Dick Roberts Candy Pegram Carroll and Karen Crouch Julia Jensen Rachel Willoughby Andy Cobb Michael Van Hout Elizabeth Darrow Alan Swart Fritzi Huber Sandra Siemering Renato Abbate Brooks Koff Gayle Tustin Jonkheer herself and many more.

“From my perspective it’s truly a gift ” Jonkheer says. “I feel honored to stand in my studio surrounded by the personalities and creative spirit of my fellow artists.”

This year’s Heart Art Show and Sale will be held at Jonkheer Jewelry on Friday February 12 from 6-8 p.m. Many of the artists will be present to sign their hearts and perhaps even write a personalized message.