The power of romantic love and its sway
Words and images by Peter Bruun
This drawing is inspired by a Valentine’s day letter Brooke Hoffman’s grandfather wrote to her grandmother. “My grandmother passed away January 2017. They were faithfully married more than fifty years, together since age 12, and had never known a love outside their own. Her passing has been difficult, but their love was one of a kind.” In the drawing, I echo the playful nature of the writers’ words. I have chosen to have two shapes overlapping, each made up of more than50 parts (representing the more than 50 years), together shaping into something reminiscent of a heart. For whatever reason, absent from most of the drawings I have made for this project is the playfulness present in this one; rarely do I seek to portray love in a such a manner (nor do I have very many letters with such a light touch). Chalk it up to reverence before love – but a reverence one must guard against over-inflating by taking too seriously. This sweet card and easy drawing help keep us on earth.
Walt Whitman’s language embodies nothing if not a soaring romanticism:“I sing the body electric, the armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them”; “I celebrate myself, and sing myself, and what I assume you shall assume, for every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” These lofty sentiments echo in some regard how he lived, loving others evocatively and bodily. This fragment from a letter is taken from a correspondence between the poet andPeter Doyle, a bus conductor he met in 1866 and with whom he had a loving relationship for several years (this letter was written in 1870). In the drawing (one I honestly feel hot and cold about: sometimes it seems just so, and at other moments repulsively crude), I have attempted to convey simplicity, ambiguity, and a free-flowing sense of rhythm – a tangible brutality and a lyrical sublime interchange, both present at one and the same time. Earthy and mortal and real, like us.
“They had two in-person dates, then were separated by war. When he returned from theSouthwest Pacific, they were married a week later.” So wrote Gerard Stropnicky when he contacted me early on during the process of my making love letter drawings, writing of his parents’ correspondence between 1941-1945, and sharing with me one of thousands of letters between the two. What moves me to include this drawing in the “Cupid’s Arrow” section is the sheer beauty of the image – as apart as they might be, he invites her to join him on a date with the night sky. I have tried to express in this drawing that vision of union… all harmonious, all at one, in one magnificent pattern of endless blue, two heads of lovers bobbing at the bottom, each leaning into the other. I have sought to express a simple, soothing beauty, not unlike that conveyed by the words, a balm for the ache of actual separation.
The writer of this letter elected to retain anonymity, offering the only clues to identity in the proffered first initials. I was struck by the originality of the metaphor the writer uses – likening love to an invisibility cloak from the Harry Potter book series – an image as specific and dead-on clear as it is unexpected. In my drawing, I have attempted to give form to this metaphor: a seated and somewhat huddled figure, snuggly draped in an all-encompassing and form-fitting shawl made of warm orange: something amazing and protecting. In all my drawings, I have attempted to honor the spirit of the words… spirit always informed by passion and pain, longing and joy, receiving and giving. In each drawing, I also have tried through my abstracting approach to honor the unspeakable and un-nameable – the eternally mysterious core that is love.