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  • Writer's pictureKaren Lembo

Hearts Set Free (2024)



**Note: Hover over each image to see its title. Click the image for more information.


When I began this series of 6 mixed media pieces, I wanted simply to experiment further with the collage and paint process I had been working on, just on a smaller scale. In working in series, I wanted the works to feel connected, and I was going to use the Korean Hanji paper I had acquired last fall in Korea, along with related subject matter to accomplish that. Working with scenes from around Delmarva that I had collected on my camera roll, I started thinking of the series as simply, "Land, Sea, Sky."


Things began to change as I worked on the first piece I blogged about called "Blown Away." In recreating the field I had previously painted in "After the Storm," I added a snippet from my journal in which the words "blow it away" remained visible. These words came from a prayer recorded years' prior, and as I worked, this piece came to represent various parts of me that God had "blown away": friends I had lost, my career that had dissolved, family members moving away and others declining in old age, expectations of how I thought life would be, etc. But I also realized that God had used these various challenges and losses to "prune" me and help me mature and become more like Him.


As each piece developed, I started using the little hearts that came from a piece of the Hanji paper to further connect the work, and eventually the title for the series "Hearts Set Free" evolved. I began to recognize that each successive piece reflected more of my journey. The more I am learning to let go, the more contented and capable I am becoming. It is all truly a work of God's Spirit in my life.


I want you, the audience, to understand that it is not imperative that you know the story behind each of these paintings. I want to leave ambiguity that allows you to pause and ponder and respond to each piece in a personal way. I have worked purposefully to draw you in closer to the images by layering things beneath the surface in order to help you take this extra time.


The images I have chose for this series are familiar to many of us who reside here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland: farm fields, big open skies, marshes and beaches. While familiar, these scenes change with the seasons, the weather, and even the time of day. God daily displays His Creativity and His Glory, yet so often we miss it while zooming about our busy lives. I hope this series inspires you to slow down and savor the beauty that is all around us. Moreover, I hope it leads you to appreciate the challenges you are walking through and allow God to use them to help you know Him better.

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