A heart-shaped anything used to seem overly sentimental, even mawkish, to me until I encountered those created by Page Hodel. Her hearts are ephemeral and made from the unexpected–things like chile peppers, paper clips, postage stamps, kumquats, metal bolts, cast-off sneakers, green onions, all sorts of colorful objects.
The story behind her art is equally unexpected and poignant. Page is a disc jokey whose presence unifies and enlivens a crowd. Billboard magazine named her one of the country’s best. She also works for the non-profit Rhythmic Concepts to foster jazz education. Before she started making hearts her hands-on creative efforts took place on a larger scale, including the renovation of large vehicles and homes. Her life seemed full. Then she met her neighbor, Madalene Louise Rodriguez, a librarian and glass artist. The moment they met, they both fell in love. As Page writes on her site,
There is something extraordinary about falling so deeply in love later in your life. The profound awareness of the miracle of finding the love you have looked for all your life, and the realization of how much you each have to share having lived so long and experienced so much.
Page began making hearts out of buttons, leaves, anything she could find to leave on Madalene’s doorstep late each Sunday night. That way when Madalene stepped out to go to work the next morning, she’d be greeting by a beautiful reminder of their love.
Only seven months after they met, Madalene was diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer. Page promised to continue making hearts for her each week, no matter what. After a courageous battle, four months later Madalene died.
Page never intended the hearts she created to be anything more than a private way of expressing her feelings. Thanks to a request by Madalene’s brother, she gradually began sending online photos of each week’s heart to loved ones, inviting them to forward the images as a way of putting more love out in the world.
Page initially refused offers to collect the photos into a book. The feeling associated with them was too painful. But she kept hearing from strangers whose lives were affected by the hearts. She realized that her love for Madalene could touch others.
Now you can find 100 hearts collected in a beautiful volume titled Monday Hearts for Madalene as well as Hearts for Madalene Notecards. Page donates a portion of the proceeds from each sale to the Women’s Cancer Resource Center. Anyone who would like to receive a weekly email with the newest Monday Hearts For Madalene, simply email firstname.lastname@example.org with “subscribe” in the subject line.
Seeing these images, hearts can’t help but take on a larger meaning.