All you need is "LOVE'

February 09, 2013|Washington County Museum of Fine Arts
  • Robert Indiana's "LOVE" silk-screen is on display at the Washington County Museum of Fine of Arts.
Robert Indiana's "LOVE" silk-screen is on display at the Washington County Museum of Fine of Arts.

Special to The Herald-Mail

It's Valentine's season and time for love, flowers, diamonds, and art to merge.

Robert Indiana's iconic "LOVE" was originally designed as a Christmas card commissioned by The Museum of Modern Art in 1965. It was then developed into paintings, lithographs, silk-screens, one of which is now in the collection of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts (1972 Silkscreen, four prints), and outdoor "public art" sculptures, versions of which are found in New York City. In 1973, the U.S. Postal Service issued 300 million "LOVE" stamps.

Indiana is known for his brightly colored, geometric pop art paintings, prints and sculptures, which boldly present American culture, using the stuff of advertising signage. Born Robert Clark in New Castle, Ind., in 1928, he adopted the name of his native state as a painter's surname early in his career.

During Indiana's Midwestern boyhood, highway signs had a symbolic importance for him. His father worked for Phillips 66 gas and the diner, which his mother operated, and had the familiar "EAT" sign looming overhead. In his art, Indiana merged highway culture with the iconic words of all the things people can do in cars:  "Eat, Hug, Die," for example.

Art museums are places of trysts, courtship and proposals. What is it about art that inspires couples to visit for romantic afternoons of looking at and talking about art? Why do high-schoolers crowd into the museum's Kaylor Garden in front of the "Diana" sculpture for their annual homecoming and prom photographs? Why have many amorous young men popped the question in front of "Diana" at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts? Why do couples seek out the museum for their weddings and wedding receptions?

I will suggest that a place of beauty inspires thoughts of love. Gazing at beautiful goddesses of classical mythology, at paintings that illustrate courtship, at paired portraits of husbands and wives, people are given hope and inspiration for their own love relationships.

"Ode on a Grecian Urn," a poem written by the English Romantic poet John Keats in May 1819 and published in January 1820, is but one example of art serving as inspiration for love. The poet describes the image on the urn of a lover pursing the beloved, but caught in a moment of time, thus forever chasing, never obtaining, the beloved. Such a frozen moment enables the viewer to imagine the outcome, and to savor the unending "pause."

Similarly, Anna Hyatt Huntington's "Diana" sculpture is frozen in a moment in time; the arrow from her bow has been shot into the air and is forever aloft; her faithful whippet is suspended in an athletic leap, off-balance, panting in anticipation of his quarry. In mythology, Diana is the goddess of the hunt, of the moon, of women and childbirth. The twin sister of Apollo, the sun god, she was sacred to woodlands and could talk to the animals. However, she was sworn to remain unwed, thus forever unattainable as an object of love.

  So visit the museum this Valentine's week, see Robert Indiana's "LOVE," view the museum's "Diana" from her point of inspiration as she stands tip-toe on the moon, faces East overlooking beautiful City Park pond, the exuberant waterfowl, the strolling couples, and enjoy the romance and inspiration of art.

Rebecca Massie Lane is director of Washington County Museum of Fine Arts. To find out more about the museum, visit

Here are just some of the upcoming events at the museum:

• Now through Thursday, March 21, the museum is conducting its Art Museum Raffle, where  patrons have chance to win a $5,000 shopping spree at R. Bruce Carson Jewelers . Raffle Ticket are 1 for $10; 3 for $25; 5 for $40; 10 for $75 and may be purchased online at or by phoning the museum at 301.739.5727

• Area artist and Master Gardner Cindy Roberts Downs will talk about interpreting art with flowers at 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 14, at the museum. This is part of the monthly meeting of the Singer Society.

• Kelly Hancock, museum educator, will host an illustrated lecture at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17. The lecture is called "Hearts at War: Civil War Valentines and Love Letters from the Collection of the Museum of The Confederacy, Richmond, VA."

• Author Jessica James, will sign her book, "From the Heart: Love Stories and Letters from the Civil War," from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17, at the museum. The book contains love letters by famous luminaries including J. E. B. Stuart, "Stonewall" Jackson and GoergePickett.  James writes historical fiction and her romance novel, Noble Cause, won the John Ester Cooke Award for Southern Fiction.

For more information about all of these romantic opportunities, call the museum at 301-739-5727, or go to


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