In the early 2000s, I exhibited at the Mendel Art Gallery a smattering of images that were lovely and controversial (all printed 4′ by 4′, rich and glossy); the series was titled “love.” I scanned fresh hearts from a local pork slaughterhouse, at high resolutions and then manipulated them into patterns and motifs that were floral and decorative. I’ve described these hearts as inappropriately beautiful, as viewers would be drawn to them, then repulsed, somewhat, when seeing the titles revealing their creation (many of the names alluded to their freshness, and often the faint bloody trails – making ‘heart’ shapes in one image – are natural, not digital).
Since then, I’ve had an annual tradition of making Valentine’s Day cards, and sharing these with friends (amusingly, several of my female friends who are married comment that I am their most reliable ‘valentine’). Sometimes I incorporate the words of Neruda, or Cohen, or others. But it all began with Neil Gaiman’s Rose Walker: “Have you ever been in love? Horrible, isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defences. You build up this whole armour, for years, so nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life… You give them a piece of you. They don’t ask for it. They do something dumb one day like kiss you, or smile at you, and then your life isn’t your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness…It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It’s a soul-hurt, a body-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. Nothing should be able to do that. Especially not love. I hate love.”
Please feel free to download and share these with those you love, those you used to love, or those whom also must endure this day, as best we can. Your intrepid #artcriticfromhell wishes you all a ‘happy’ valentine’s day.