A Love/Hate Relationship

A smaller version of Robert Indiana's Love statue on University of Pennsylvania's campus. Photographed by Phil Roeder.

The picture above is by Dread Scott, an activist and artist whose chosen mediums include everything from performance to graphic design. This specific piece of artwork is called– not surprisingly – “HATE.” What struck me first was the uncanny resemblance it has to the familiar pop-culture icon we all know and love– the LOVE statue on Locust Walk.

Each morning when I walk to class, the statue’s presence gives me an indirect sense of comfort. Some days, it makes me feel more cynical– days when I’ve read something on the news and then see the irony in the statue. But no matter what, it stands there, ever-present, and makes the other days a little better– days when I feel like the four-lettered word the sculpture spells out holds true to its meaning. Its sentiment fluctuates in our world but the idea of it is universal. It is a work like Dread Scott’s that, despite the cathartic effects it may have on its creator, intensifies feelings of powerlessness in our world. It ends with us asking ourselves a dangerous question: what’s the point? The first step to progress is identifying the problems, and too often that is how everything looks to us: a concoction of intolerance, ignorance, corruption, and everything else that’s wrong.

But in just the past few months, so much has happened to alleviate these feelings. Just last month, Boy Scouts of America lifted its ban on transgender recruits, following their earlier lift of the ban on homosexual counselors. At the University of Washington, poets gathered to perform pieces about love and acceptance to battle remnants of racism, sexism, and homophobia. The world saw the power of a united people when a women’s march in one city catalyzed similar demonstrations in 82 countries. This was followed by the installment of the “Fearless Girl” statue in front of the “Charging Bull” on Wall Street. There’s been word of designs for new 20-dollar bills with Harriet Tubman on them. The disabled community also experienced progress when Toys R Us initiated quiet shopping hours during the holidays for kids with autism, making the season more enjoyable for more people. Finally, the gradual disintegration of the taboo on sex education has led to improved safe-sex practices among adolescents. Consequently, teen birth rates have also reached an all-time low.

All the examples above are a small percentage of the good that we’ve accomplished recently in our world. It reminds us that there is a reason tourists flock to the LOVE statue whenever they see its red letters from afar. Though it’s a popular sculpture, I like to think that a part of its appeal lies in the meaning of the four-lettered word. Nonetheless, I think we could all afford to do a little more to celebrate what it says.

 

Feature image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tabor-roeder/30666231936

Artwork image source: http://www.dreadscott.net/works/hate/

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