Right on time for Valentine’s Day, Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) will launch their new series Programmers Notebook: On Love. On Love is the first in a recurring series in which members of the film and programming team at BAM respond to thought-provoking themes. This week’s theme of course is love.
From February 14–21, BAM will present 15 films that cover the theme of love in all its forms: “romantic, familial, fraternal, self-love, love of nature, love as passion, love as pain, and everything in between.” The series will open with Gina Prince-Bythewood’s Love & Basketball (2000). Also included in the program are Pedro Almodóvar’s Bad Education (2004), Wim Wenders’s Paris, Texas (1984), Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), Daniel Day Lewis’s Phantom Thread (2017), and much more.
The series is collaboratively programmed by BAM’s Associate Vice President of Film Gina Duncan, Senior Repertory and Specialty Film Programmer Ashley Clark, Repertory and Specialty Film Programmer Jesse Trussell, and Repertory and Specialty Film Programs Coordinator Natalie Erazo.
The full schedule can be found here, with links to purchase tickets for each individual film.
When: February 14–21, various times Where: Brooklyn Academy of Music, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Fort Greene, Brooklyn
What better way to celebrate valentine’s day than with a custom piece of art? Makershare user Mark Langford shares with us how he created this floating valentine’s day heart out of Lexan using lasers. You can download all the files to make your own, and Mark even shows where you […]
That’s right, there really was a flesh-and-blood Italian behind the kitsch holiday we’ve got today, and he went by the name of Saint Valentine. Unfortunately for Valentine, however, the day-turned-holiday marked his tragic end, as the martyr was clubbed to death in Rome on February 14th, 269 AD.
Everyone has their own New York anniversary, and mine was the time in 1998 when I met Louise Bourgeois on Valentine’s Day. I was staying with my friend who lived on St. Mark’s Place, and one day, while walking down West 20th street in Chelsea, he pointed to a brownstone and said, with a little tremble in his voice, “That’s where Louise Bourgeois lives!” Apparently, he’d gone there on a class trip from Stony Brook University and they all had to bring their art and she had been really mean to them. I was intrigued. I remembered someone telling me that all the famous people in New York were in the phone book and you could just look them up. So I dragged him into the nearest bar and looked her up. Sure enough, there she was: “Bourgeois, L. 347 West 20th Street.” My heart sped up as I called the number from the bar’s payphone.
To my surprise, her son answered (the one who wrote the book called The Spectacular Vernacular). I asked for “Louise,” and a minute later I was almost speechless when I heard her raspy, ancient-sounding French voice. She was so patient and nice as I muttered about being an artist from San Francisco and I asked if I could come by and meet her some time.
She said, “Where? From San Francisco? Well, yes, yes of course!” But I had to bring some of my art, and that I should come by around noon on Sunday — there would be some kind of party going on. I was oblivious to the fact that she had regular Sunday salons at her place, and that she’d been doing it for years and that it was one of those things people did all the time and everyone else seemed to know about. She had created her own little art world inside her house where rich and poor, famous and almost famous, and nobodies and somebodies could all meet and shoot the breeze. Or preen their feathers. Or talk trash. But, being clueless, I naturally felt like I was sneaking in.
I spent the next two days looking at every book I could find on her work. I sat around St. Mark’s Bookshop digging around their art section trying to study up just in case I got put on the spot. I knew enough to know what I didn’t know, and that what I knew wasn’t nearly enough. Sitting in the bookstore I realized just how much she had done and I had no idea what I had gotten myself into.
When Sunday rolled around, I thought I better go a little early. Everyone had told me about how notorious traffic was in the city. Also, because Sunday was Valentine’s Day, I decided to bring her a bouquet of purple irises. I don’t know why those particular flowers, maybe they were in a van Gogh painting? Whatever the reason, I recall standing there at the doorstep thinking how surreal it was that I was even there at all. Some of my friends had urged me to smuggle in a camera or some kind of audio recorder but I didn’t. I wanted to actually enjoy the experience without neurotically documenting it.
So I rang the bell and waited. A minute went by. Nothing. Maybe I pressed it too lightly? I rang it again, more firmly this time. Then, ever so slowly, the door opened. Her son appeared and looked me up and down. I thought he was going to tell me to go away; instead he motioned for me to follow him, and in I went.
He led me into the living room and then slipped off somewhere. I stood alone thinking maybe Bourgeois had thought I was someone else when I had phoned her. I decided I would just play along and see what happened. What’s the harm in that? Right then she started shouting questions at me but I couldn’t see her. What’s my name, where was I from, what kind of art did I make, was I hungry? I followed the voice into her tiny kitchen where she was fussing with something. It was a jar. She asked me if I could open it for her. She was born the same year as my grandmother, 1911, so that made her 87 years old. Of course I could help her open the jar.
Since I was the first person there, Bourgeois had me sit at her creaky, old table while she heated up a kettle for tea. She then pulled out a big plate piled with cookies that were shaped like long, thin red lips. They were sugar cookies and the frosting looked like shiny, red lipstick. She smiled and told me I could have as many as I wanted. We kept chatting as she walked around getting things ready for the guests. She offered some organic bananas with the tea and we sat and talked about New York and her house. She took the flowers matter-of-factly and put them in some water, accepting them less as a gift for her, and more as a gift for the house.
The house had been clearly lived in for quite some time. One wall was completely covered in posters, cards, and flyers — it was like a messy collage of all of her shows. It was an interesting monument and, I guessed, a way to keep track of time. On the other side of the room were lots and lots of books. Bourgeois loved books.
Soon, all kinds of characters started drifting in, all of who seemed to speak more French than I did. I could follow some of the conversation, but people went back and forth between French and English talking about their art, showing it around the table to everyone. At one point, Bourgeois said flat out that she didn’t like one woman’s art — because it was boring. Even more offensive to Bourgeois yet, the artist’s explanation of it was boring. The rest of us sort of nodded in agreement. There were a few minutes of tension, but eventually the group moved on to another topic. Right then I saw why so many people respected and adored her. She cared. She cared a lot. Not just about what she made but about what other people made, too. She cared because it was important. I liked that.
To this day, I am thankful Bourgeois possibly thought I was someone else and still allowed me to sit around her house all day; because of her I felt welcome in New York City. So now, every Valentine’s Day is my New York anniversary, and I think of her.
Flowers wilt and chocolate boxes inevitably empty, but a written note that expresses love can last centuries, if not longer. For over four decades, the collector Nancy Rosin amassed an enormous trove of paper valentines created between 1684 and 1970. Now, just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens has announced that it has acquired her unique collection.
Donated by Rosin’s family, The Nancy and Henry Rosin Collection of Valentine, Friendship, and Devotional Ephemera is considered the “best private collection of its kind in the world,” according to the Huntington. It comprises about 12,300 traces of exchanged intimacy, from friendly greetings to arduous affirmations of desire, conveyed through well-preserved cards of all kinds.
Included are carefully handcrafted cards, from Pennsylvania-German folded love tokens to cobweb cards — named for their delicate paper spirals that lift to form a cage and reveal a hidden message. (One that Rosin collected opens to show something very curious: a dangling mouse.) There are 18th-century lace-trimmed, devotional cards hand-cut by French and German nuns, who sold these to raise money. There are also — to diversify the collection’s messages — vinegar valentines, those nasty cards that Victorians sent to people they disliked. Here’s a taste of a savage one sent from a moralistic scribe:
On each Sunday morning to church you repair, And turn up your nose with a sanctified air, But see you at home what a different sight, As you read nasty books and drink gin half the night, While you ne’er give poor people enough for a dinner, You hypocritical wicked old Sinner.
Sometimes simply playful or sarcastic, vinegar valentines exemplify the variety of material Rosin’s collection offers.
“It is without a doubt the best in private hands in terms of quality and range within its focus — to say nothing of the sheer wonder and delight the items provide,” the Library’s Curator of Graphic Arts and Social History David Mihaly said. “Pull a string and an ingenious cobweb device lifts to reveal a mouse in a trap; unfold a die-cut valentine and watch a majestic carriage spring to life in 3-D; read a witty poem and realize it’s a hilarious jab at a Victorian-era politician; look closely at a tiny, centuries-old card and see it was delicately perforated with hundreds of tiny pinpricks, and hand painted so expertly.”
The Library will now research and process the collection, and while there are no current plans to display the objects, curators hope to organize an exhibition dedicated to them in the coming years. For now, those planning to send a loved one a special Valentine’s card can draw some inspiration from these centuries-old tokens.
Valentine’s Day is just around the bend, which means you’ve got a great excuse to indulge in some treat-yo-self extravagances (i.e. chocolate, fancy undies, more chocolate). First up on our shopping list?