The Romantic Public Art Commission ‘Love Ties” was commissioned in 2005 by Stoke on Trent City Council and Regeneration Funding. I worked with communities and other artists to talk about Love. Participants wrote Love Letters, quotes of which were then fabricated in Stainless Steel and installed around the park. Words from the community to the community – Public Ownership is absolute. A couple of nice surprises happened that I hadn’t thought about before the install – one of the things I love about making art are the surprises. One of the quotes around the first island in the boating lake says – “There are sounds all around, but nothing matters except the sound of your voice” As you approach the lake, the geese start making a huge racket, making the quote even more relevant. The text on the other island reads “I see you standing there as if on a distant horizon, I reach out and our hands touch” Standing out side the park and across the street, the only word you can see is Distant. Love Ties was featured in Flavorwires most romantic Public Artworks – Have a look here
Love Ties entangles the viewer in an experience that is both celebratory and tragic. Uplifted or pensive the viewer’s understanding of the work will depend on not only the time of day and season, but also their own emotional experiences. On a dull day the letters sit quietly amongst the willow trees, hovering above the water waiting to be discovered yet as the sun appears from behind the clouds the texts burst into light, shining love at you. As you walk round the boating lake the reflections shimmer and shift, making the texts look like they are speaking to you in different tones. To read each whole quote entails a walk around the entire boating lake, or up three flights of stairs, sometimes near and sometimes far, around the islands the quotes appear to accompany you, connect with you or hold you at bay, distant. Peering at the plaques on the stairs, your image is intimately reflected in the shiny polished texts. On the one hand Love Ties serves to uplift, to fill the viewer with love to permeate love throughout Hanley Park and beyond as the viewer passes through on in to Hanley. With all the texts coming from the communities that use the park, the concept of public ownership is absolute and therefore a beautiful reflection of the people that contributed to the piece. Of the hidden treasures that lie within their hearts, of their honesty, their passion and their ability to communicate. However, scribbled emotions and uttered feelings form the basis for the permanent stainless steel letters constructed in Hanley Park. Love Ties can be read as a permanent and solid legacy to love, it also however holds a certain tragedy. The exceptionally personal is now so public. Words once spoken to a special partner are now for everyone. Love Ties too becomes a reminder of distant memories, of words once spoken that can and often are so easily forgotten or torn apart. As it lives in the park the permanent and solid nature of these letters is not allowed to die, they can’t be retracted or torn up. Love Ties serves to remind us that despite what we may have neglected, our words can and often do live on in others.
Romantic Public Art – Love Ties – The Making
The making of Love ties took an enormous amount of work from different people to make it happen. It was really important to me that I reached as many groups and residents living in and around Hanley Park as possible. Letting in the Light ( a Community Arts Group that I set up in 2005 with Anne Kinnaird) were asked to coordinate the community workshops. Working with creative writers, singers and other artists a range of community activities took place all talking about Love. Through these activities participants were asked to write Love Letters. There was one in particular that really struck me. Forty years ago, a young couple fell in love in Hanley park. They would meet every evening on the steps leading to the boating lake. Then one day she turned up as normal, but he didn’t. She wrote the most beautiful letter to him during the project. It ends with “Your smile is burnt on my memory – where did you go?” It still brings tears to my eyes.