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Artsminded: Tracing the roots of an iconic symbol

As you tackle that ruby red construction paper, making Valentine cards for the special loves in your life, you may not be aware that you are following centuries of history.

While people accept this familiar shape without question it contains many layers of meaning.

The heart was believed by the Stoics to harbor the soul. Many early scientists and philosophers thought it housed both reason and emotion.

Although debunked as theory, the heart is perceived to this day as the emotional core of being.

In religious writings the power of the heart and its connection to the spiritual and divine, whether physical or mystical, emerged frequently in Biblical passages.

In ancient art and folklore the shape took on a simplified representation of the human heart, its red color symbolizing both blood and passion. However, the meaning of the shape has been mired in controversy.

Some believe it to resemble the seed of the Silphium plant used in ancient times as an herbal contraceptive. Others contend it is a stylized rendering of human private anatomy.

The first ideas linking the heart to love occurred in the culturally advanced city of Pompeii prior to the devastating volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Although the first known valentine card dates back to the early 1400s, it wasn't until the Victorian era, especially the mid-1800s that cards, of sometimes exquisite artistic merit, were frequently created.

Sailors of bygone eras (and many of our contemporaries today) often wore heart shaped tattoos to display affection or desire.

Love or lust notwithstanding, the icon is here to stay.

And, in the shape created by swans, crooking their necks and bending their heads together as a mating ritual, we witness a most pleasing sense of iconic purity.

Happy Valentine's Day from the River Falls Community Arts Base!

Events and opportunities:

--Continuing Civil War exhibition at the River Falls Public Library, Main and Union.

--Continuing at Gallery 120, 120 N. Main St.: Bill Ammerman Retrospective.

--Thursday, Feb. 14, 5:30-8 p.m.: Opening reception for Glass Legacies. The exhibition of UWRF glass creations by students and faculty runs Feb. 11-March 6.

--Thursday, Feb. 14, 7:30 p.m.: UWRF Wyman Series presents Carnaval Brasileiro! (Brazilian Carnival) in the Riverview Ballroom.

--Friday, Feb. 15, 6:30 p.m.: Opening reception in the Main Galleries at The Phipps Center for the Arts, 109 Locust, Hudson. Other events/tickets call 715-386-8409 or visit Phipps

--The following UWRF events are free at Abbott Concert Hall, KFA, unless noted:

Sunday, Feb. 17, 3 p.m.: Trio St. Croix with cellist, Sally Dorer, violinist, Giselle Hillyer and pianist, Roger McVey.

Friday, Feb. 22, 1 p.m., UWRF Jazz Ensemble Concert (part of a day long jazz festival).

Friday, Feb. 22, 7:30 p.m.: RADD Jazz Series: Jazz Club Cabaret, guest guitarist Mike Stern, Falcon's Nest, University Center.

Saturday, Feb. 23, 7:30 p.m., RADD Jazz Series Concert: UWRF Jazz Ensemble with Mike Stern.

Tuesday, Feb. 26, 7:30 p.m.: Euphonium Recital: Jason Ham, West Point guest soloist.

Thursday, Feb. 28, 7:30 p.m.: UFO Concerto Euphonium/Tuba Orchestra Concert featuring Jason Ham. Adults $5, seniors $3, students $2

--Thursday, Feb. 28, March 1,2,6,7,8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m., UWRF University Theatre presents The Twilight of the Golds at the Syse Theatre, KFA. Adults $10, seniors $8, students $5. Call 715-425-3114 for more information.

--Application deadline: Franconia Sculpture Park, Intern Artist, Feb. 23. Iron Artist and Iron Intern: March 30. Email for more information.

n Call for quilts by March 11 for River Falls Public Library Exhibit. Call 715-425-0905 for more information. Volunteers needed for set-up.

--Call for artists:

University of Minnesota's 2013-14 exhibitions at Coffman Art Gallery and Larson Art Gallery. Email Gallery

or visit Larson Art Gallery for more information.

CAB's Art on the Kinni, juried art fair to be held Sept. 7. Application deadline moved to April 30. Visit River Falls Cab for more information.