Heartfelt, from Tallahassee

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Post from Colette Copeland

“Love is like the measles—we all have to go through it.”
Jerome K. Jerome (1859-1927)

“Love is the greatest refreshment in life.”
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

“How alike are the groans of love to those of the dying.”
Malcolm Lowry (1909-1957)

Labor of love describes curator George Blakely’s five-year project entitled, “Heartfelt” (on exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts at Florida State University through November 20th) Featuring 61 photographers, Blakely presents a critical review on the expressions of love manifested in popular culture through photography and artifacts.

This is a big name show and the key to its coherence and success lies in the juxtaposition: modernists with postmodernists, sincerity with sarcasm, kitsch with elegance.

Where else can you see an “What Would Jesus Do” thong (right) or Voodoo Love Kit in the same room with a Robert Frank, Andres Serrano, Dorothea Lange, and Cindy Sherman?

Since it is impossible to address all the work in the exhibit—here are some of my favorites: Elliot Erwitt’s humorous 1958 photograph of newlyweds in front a car with a sign that reads, “She got me this morning, but I’ll get her tonight.” (pictured below is detail)

Jim Stone’s “His and Hers” machine guns photograph ironically speaks to our nation’s obsession with guns. Donna Ferrato’s color photograph depicting an exotic dancer framed in a red heart-shaped beaded screen shows the underbelly of love/sex. William Wegman’s photograph “Cheng & Eng Get Together” (from the Mutter Museum here in Philly) shows his dogs bizarrely connected as Siamese twins. (top image)

Anne Turyn, Jennifer Durant and Jim Goldberg combine text and image. Turyn’s “Dear John” photographs feature banal snapshots of two people with biting text, such as “Dear John, I’m cutting sweets out of my life and that includes you.” Social documentarian Goldberg addresses social class constructions in his “Rich and Poor” series. Durrant’s diptych panels include portraits of people she met on the street paired with their responses to the question, “Who are you in love with?”

Philly artists David Graham and Judy Gelles both have work in the exhibit (as does yours truly). Graham’s ‘Love Chapel’ speaks to the commodification of love, while Gelle’s poignant family portraits question gender roles and values in our culture. My installation “Love Letters” (right is Copeland posing with her installation) explores adolescent males’ ideology surrounding romance, love and sex.

The exhibit could have fallen prey to the sappy clichés, which keep Hallmark in business or fallen into the quagmire of cynicism. Instead Blakely asks us to hold up a mirror to society and ourselves, questioning our assumptions about love with humor, passion and sincerity.

–Video installation artist Colette Copeland is a frequent artblog contributor.

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