Portraits of Humanity (Confronting Bullying, Hatred & Violence)


Read The Story of the Hardened Heart Series here.






 The Hardened Heart Series: PORTRAITS of HUMANITY


Humanity. Humankind. Mankind. Womankind. People. The Human Race. Mortals.




Is Your Heart Represented?







The Hardened Heart series was born in 2013 when artist David Leese poured excess Plaster of Paris into a beat up, 15+ year old, heart-shaped candy box cover. Once cured, he realized the plaster had drawn all of the accumulated grime from the cover and implanted it on the new plaster surface. With the cracks, holes and spaces created by the staggered pours and the new element of grunge, he thought to himself that this heart had incredibly interesting character. He realized that it was a lot like his own.


It’s a heart that bears the scars and patches of a life well-lived. Every loss, every gain along with every joy and every pain were represented.  It was a Hardened Heart. One that has withstood the test of time and still beats on with warmth and passion. Hardened in the sense of being strengthened rather than calloused. Scarred in the best possible way and under the worst possible circumstances. One that has been knocked down but chose to get back up... more than once. He realized that all of us at various times in our lives will experience events that will ultimately determine the special character of our own Hardened Heart.


At the core of the ‘Portraits of Humanity’ project are 38 Hardened Heart sculptures & prints, each designed to express a different emotion often associated culturally with the heart. Each heart is identified by its own unique color and word combination - for example, the red "Broken Heart" or gold "Heart of Gold". As the viewer walks through the exhibition, they begin to realize that they are looking beyond the superficial differences of race, religion, gender, politics and wealth that seem to divide us. Beneath all of these differences we are the same. We are human beings with human hearts, human problems, and human scars. We must learn to appreciate the strength required to persevere the trials and tribulations all human beings face, and unify as one humanity to stop bullying, violence and hatred once and for all.  


The David Leese Studio has 35 years of experience in community-based art education. We have found throughout the years that the majority of the public, both adults and children, does not have access to art, or is intimidated by art galleries and art museums. We want to bring our family-friendly art project and message to the public. Every human being in some way has a Hardened Heart. Who we are is a result of the experiences of our lives, and those experiences affect us in both positive and negative ways. Our goal with this project is to challenge society to take a deeper look at what has made their hearts hardened, and what their neighbor may have gone through to earn their Hardened Heart. How do our actions or comments affect other people’s lives? We as a community need to come together to celebrate our diversity by highlighting the bonds we share, and not allow these differences to be a source of hatred, violence and bullying.


As we have started to display this unique exhibition, we have found that all age groups can relate to the individual Hardened Hearts which then begins a conversation on very difficult subject matter - bullying, hatred and violence.  Our children, our school systems and our society are faced with these issues on a daily basis. We need to support and drive a message of understanding, inclusion, tolerance and equality.


Fast forward to 2023, and ‘The Hardened Heart Series: Portraits of Humanity’ project has become an extremely relevant and timely art exhibition.




Martin Library Exhibition



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Patricia with PA State Rep. Carol Hill-Evans and Martin Member Angela Orwig.         Patricia with York City Mayor Michael Helfrich.



Patricia with author Jennifer Foxworthy. Jennifer gave an inspirational speech at Martin Library

as a part of their special programming for Domestic Violence and Anti-Bullying Awareness Month.



PA State Capitol Building Exhibition


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The Studio was surprised and honored that Senator Ryan P. Aument invited and introduced Patricia Leese, the David Leese Studio and the "Hardened Hearts Series: Portraits of Humanity" art exhibition on the floor of the Pennsylvania State Senate Chamber which was in session on December 18, 2019.