When people think about Valentine's Day, they inevitably think of chocolate-filled hearts and doe-eyed cupids. And it's that imagery that contrasts with Anthia Linou's art on the cover of this week's CityBeat. Amidst gritty, urban landscapes, Linou spent time in San Francisco and Portland spraypainting stenciled words into gray concrete. Each panel is a separate work and shares a love-filled phrase.
"I'm a writer," Linou, a memoirist, explained. "I was healing from a broken heart. ... This is a way of communicating with my lover."
While the lover is long gone and unaware of his role in her art, Linou described the work as "random thoughts that became a series." Stenciling is new to the self-taught Linou, who has book art in the permanent collection of the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla.
Each stenciled piece was painted in the hour before dawn, around 5 a.m. By going out so early, she captured well-lit moments and avoided undue attention. A self-described homebody, Linou stayed close to home while making her not-so-legal public art.
From conception to photo, it took her about a month to create each image in the 26-photo album, all we need is love. Since she had a lot of time on her hands, Linou thought a lot about the words and images chosen, like "YOUR LOVE IS ALL I THINK ABOUT" or "your sweet voice breaks my heart." Taken together, the album loosely resembles Linou's medium of choice: mixed-media collage.
"I see things in different images, like a puzzle," she said. "You don't really see things until you put it together."
And, just like love isn't all roses and candy, what you see in Linou's work is the hidden truth about the emotion: It's hard and tough. Getting through the good times with the one you love is easy; as a couple, it's much harder to survive the bad times intact. Besides, what's more indelible than paint on concrete? Her artworks' permanence speaks to its theme.
For Linou, it seems fitting that her project started by heartbreak is gracing the Valentine's Day issue.
"It feels like a cycle has been completed," she said. "I went through a lot, but I'm not as emotionally invested in it anymore."
She's not done with love, though. Linou's next project is a visual journal about it.
"I really love the graphic impact of image and text together."