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“To the things themselves!” (“Zu den sachen selbst!” in German) was the pragmatic rallying cry of an early 20th century philosophical movement called phenomenology. Though I don’t claim to grasp all of its complexities, I appreciated the movement’s’ general premise that what matters is only what can be observed first hand (the things), and I decided to make a painting about it. I named the painting I Left My Heart in Leipzig in reference to the University of Leipzig, where the founder of phenomenology, Edmund Husserl, found inspiration.

Leipzig 1 Sketching Out The Letters Mark Fasciano

My daughter Ava and I developed the font I used in the painting when we were doodling one day. It was a challenge to get the shading right. For reference, I used some metal letters that my dad had lying around his studio.

Leipzig 2 Getting To The Right Color Mark Fasciano

I experimented with red and orange before deciding on a gold finish. I felt like gold’s valuable and substantial nature, as well as its biblical connotations, would be more suitable.


At first, I thought I’d paint a simple and concrete everyday object next to the phrase–like a coffee cup or a bicycle–to illustrate its meaning, and as an ode to Magritte’s pipe in The Treachery of Images (“Ceci n’est pas un pipe.”), which also distinguishes between practical objects and invented ideals.

Leipzing 3 Finished Mark Fasciano

But then I thought  that a contrasting background would be less obvious and more interesting. Unlike everyday objects, clouds are ephemeral and unstable, lacking fixed boundaries and clear shapes. Yet people often see familiar objects within them, which added another layer to my theme. I didn’t paint the clouds to look like anything in particular, but viewers might find something in them anyway. For when things don’t really exist, our imaginations create them.