The Art of Love

Arts Journalists pick some of their favorite art representing notions of romantic love.

Kartography by Kamila Shamsie

Happy Valentine's Day from
In her critically acclaimed novel Kartography, Kamila Shamsie writes a love letter to Karachi, Pakistan – her words framed by the beautiful, enduring love of Karim and Raheen. He loves logical maps, and she loves places full of memories. Yet somewhere deep within the marrow of their marrow, they are the same. Civil war, political tensions and family estrangements separate our heroes at 13, to be brought back years later after a fair amount of sacrifice and betrayal has been had.

Shamsie spins this oft-heard tale of childhood romance an extraordinarily beautiful web, one that is comfortingly familiar but marvelously inventive at the same time. Kartography is so haunting and lovely, the characters so resonant and engaging that love takes on a whole new meaning.

Together Raheen and Karim map Karachi in a way that helps someone hear the heartbeat of a place, and somewhere along the way find their own.

-Eesha Patkar

Amour Tour for Valentine’s Day

As love goes, romantic love is the least interesting. We can easily anticipate its moods and modes. But romance does operate interestingly with its physicality, the move that divides it from other loves. To celebrate this Valentine’s Day, spend some time on an Amour Tour through art that contemplates the body, and how we use it to fall in love. Click “Start Slideshow” on left to begin.

-Paige Cooperstein

Scrubs Finale: "Book of Love" - Peter Gabriel

Valentine's Day is here again, and with that comes candy, hearts, candy hearts, and cheesy songs about love and romance. My mind immediately goes to the television show "Scrubs", and specifically, the season finale for Season 8, and even more specifically the song playing over the last scene of the episode, which many thought would be the show's last. Peter Gabriel hauntingly sings "The Book of Love" while Zach Braff watches the rest of his life unfold, projected onto a sheet. It's romantic, but not in the way one would think. It's romantic because it's an idealized view of the rest of his life. Much in the same way, love gives people a sense of reality that only they can see.

-Nic Bell

"I'll Marry Your Stupid A--" sketch from Mr. Show With Bob & David [NSFW]

HBO's Mr. Show With Bob & David was the best sketch comedy show of the 90s, bar none. For proof of the show's timeless excellence, look no further than the sketch above, which is a perfect example of just how an otherwise hacky premise can be executed by alternative comedians at the top of their game. "I'll Marry Your Stupid Ass" begins when two trashy barflies played by Breaking Bad's Bob Odenkirk and Arrested Development's David Cross accidentally collide into each other in an explosion of testoserone and chest-beating. This unlikely meeting sets off a long-term, expletive-fueled game of one-upmanship, but unbeknownst to either party, every insult is actually a cupid's arrow. Taken as a whole, this is a prescient love story for the Jersey Shore generation that just happened to air on TV when Snooki was only in diapers. Oh, and definitely stay with it until the end: the last line in the sketch is by far the best part.

-Nick DeSantis

In the Mood for Love (2000)

Directed by the absolute romanticist Wong Kar Wai, In the Mood for Love creates a fantasy of forbidden love between two neighbors, both of whom are married to others. Their bond with each other, formed in the clichés of everyday life, is captured in the most subtle but beautiful way in the film. The gorgeous acting, costume, set and soundtrack come together to reproduce a delicious Hong Kong in the '60s. The New York Times calls it: "dizzy with a romantic spirit that has been missing from the cinema forever". True, true, true.

-Vinny Huang

“For Me This is Heaven” - Jimmy Eat World

It’s now a story known by every heart-on-sleeve romantic music fan: before they were aficionados of ready-made mall anthems and “Just be yourself” aural pats-on-the-back, Jimmy Eat World pioneered genuine, earnest music about love and heartbreak without veering into camp. On the seminal emo-manifesto Clarity, they used strings and synthesizers and made 16-minute-long songs and wrote self-vivisecting lines like, “I am but one small instrument” and “You are smaller, getting smaller but I still see you” and “Lead my skeptic sight.”

Jim Adkins and crew never wrote a song as incisive or soul-piercingly honest as “For Me This is Heaven.” It’s a song concerned with time and the inevitably fleeting, finite lifespan of love. “And the time, such clumsy time/ In deciding if it’s time”; “When the time we now have ends/ When the big hand goes round again/ Can you still feel the butterflies?”; “If I don’t let myself be happy now, then when?/ If not now, then when?” The verse slips into the chorus without a loud crash of cymbals or surge of guitar distortion. The riffs aren’t crunchy and the vocal hooks aren’t immediate. The emphasis is on the downbeat, drum clicks steady and unwavering like seconds falling off a clock—the music fluidly swells, disintegrates, rises into near-climax and disperses, both subtly and with subtle complexity—sort of like love.

-Greg Cwik

The Fountain (2006)

Darren Aronofsky's third feature film isn't always his best understood. It is a difficult and dark film for sure, going in circles for most of its running time when it isn't punching you in the gut with sadness, beauty, and jarring tone shifts. Rather than giving easy answers Aronofsky–intentionally or not–makes the viewer sit and mull over their notions of romantic devotion, love, life, and eternity. That's some heavy er, stuff.

Underneath all of the time jumping, conquistadoring, gene splicing, and tai-chiing, is an intimate story of a man and a woman and the simple act of keeping an eternal promise, even in the face of death.

-Joseph DiDomizio

"Overjoyed" & "I Just Called to Say I Love You" - Stevie Wonder

You can’t have a completely overly lovely-dovey Valentines day without a Stevie Wonder song. At least two. Because one is just not enough. If you’re wondering what two Stevie song's to dedicate to your lover, pretty much any will do. Wonder’s effortlessly stated ballads of love, and timeless melodies in “Overjoyed” or “I just called to say I love you,” sweetly profess a feeling that hopefully everyone experiences at least once in life—romantic love in it’s sweetest, rawest form. Add in some roses, chocolates, and candles and there you have—Valentine's Day.

However, if you not one for the amorously festooned holiday, a Stevie Wonder song still does the heart good. A little love can go a long way. And a Wonder song can make for a truly sweet day.

-Christina Riley

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