Putting the pieces back together

Putting the pieces back together

“Putting the pieces back together” is a healing art piece that has been created to help when dealing with loss and grief.

During such a challenging life experience, we navigate through the intense emotions of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression, which eventually lead to acceptance and the ability to move forward. Self-care and preservation are of the most importance, and putting together the pieces of a broken heart may help remind ourselves of who we are, and why we matter.

I developed an interaction with this Eucalyptus as I experienced an unexpected loss in my life. I noticed its fallen branches that collapsed on the ground, and all the broken bark laying around. Using compressed soil to form a bas-relief in the shape of a heart, I collected and arranged some of the shattered pieces and turned them into a mosaic. Examining and rearranging what we have left, allows us to create a new base for our unforeseen future, which will reveal itself in time.
May this piece help you heal, and find yourself again.

Astrid Chevallier

“Putting the pieces back together” – Prototype

This environmental art piece started at the Arboretum at UC Santa Cruz.
I gathered broken pieces of bark from a large Eucalyptus, and arranged them together, like a mosaic. The resulting texture evokes cobblestones and lizard skin.
Note that I created this abstract piece one day prior to my heart getting broken.

Mosaic made of bark

As I have been navigating the roller coaster of conflicting emotions that came from a sudden and unexpected major loss in my life, I started to envision a heart shaped piece. I would use the mosaic technique to express the idea of putting the pieces back together. A compressed soil base will hold the pieces of bark in place.

“Putting the pieces back together” – Sketch

I collected samples on site, which I used to make a prototype in my studio.
The soil – which is mostly clay in this part of California – has been cleaned up, water has been added, and I manually compressed lumps and assembled them in the shape of a heart. I then added the bark on top, and pressed the pieces into the earth base.

“Putting the pieces back together” – Shape on site


The prototype has been presented at the Open Studio at UC Santa Cruz. A string connected the piece to the campus map, to reveal the location of the on-site version that I am building at the Arboretum.


Meanwhile, at the Arboretum…

Construction, session 1 – It took me a while to decide where the installation would go. After walking around for a while, I returned to the Eucalyptus where everything started and realized that’s where the heart belongs. The location is slightly out of the way, which is a protected spot for a healing process.

“Putting the pieces back together” – Shape, on site.

Construction, session 2 – I tried to make a wooden structure by weaving branches, bark, and grasses together, but I ended up deciding it wasn’t necessarily the best way to construct that piece. Instead I collected soil (thanks to the gophers and the ground squirrels who dig around, so I don’t have to). I mixed it with water, and laid down a first layer.

“Putting the pieces back together” – Base layer

Construction, session 3 – I replicated the process I used for the prototype: I added water to some soil and I literally got my hands dirty, forming lumps and shaping them as an outside wall for the heart shape. Then I poured two layers of a more liquid mix inside the wall. I added a more solid little heart in the center (the heart of the heart) under which I placed some of my hair, as a gift to the earth and a connection to the place. By then the rain has gotten quite heavy, and I was soaked when I left!

“Putting the pieces back together” – Adding compacted soil


Construction, session 4 – coming soon…