Diversity key in MAH’s ‘All You Need is Love’ exhibit
I love _______. After the breakup, I _______. What is the craziest thing you’ve done for love? __________.
Filling in the blanks to these three questions is just one of the ways that community members are invited to interact with the Museum of Art & History’s current exhibition, “All You Need is Love.” On display now through July 29, the multimedia exhibition takes a “story first approach,” explains executive director Nina Simon. “It’s not just about the objects or what they’re made of.”
Instead, museumgoers can read and share love stories—whether they are familial, romantic, or otherwise—of local people from history or modern day, within each of the galleries. In the Love Lounge, for instance, attendees can learn all about individuals like Rosalie Meyer, who couldn’t bear to leave her late husband Seraphim when she moved back and forth from Santa Cruz to Ohio, and so she unearthed his body and took it with her all five times.
On the second floor, in the Solari Gallery, attendees can admire historical wedding dresses, examine Lillian McPherson Rouse’s scrapbooks from the 1920s, read the vows that the Santa Cruz Derby Girls make to their “Derby Wives,” delve into UC Santa Cruz-based psychological research about love, and learn all about Good Times’ very own Greg Archer’s marriage to himself seven years ago.
All this and more will come to life on April 20 in honor of Third Friday. From 5-9 p.m., the museum will be bursting with energy as visitors of all ages enjoy Love Fest, an evening of poetry, dance, theater, music, art, and games all centered around the most universal of human experiences: Amore.
“It’s very daring to do a show about love,” says Elizabeth Stephens, one of the many art visionaries who contributed to the exhibition. “With things like Hallmark, love’s become a commodity.”
Stephens and her partner Annie Sprinkle hope to combat that idea with their installation, entitled “Do It Yourself Wedding,” a tall pink Love Chapel located at the heart of the Solari Gallery (pun intended). Within the triangular-shaped walk-in structure, the walls are draped in satin, the room is illuminated by a disco ball, and the focal point is a 7-foot-tall tower of television monitors—an idea which came to Stephens in a dream. Each monitor shows video footage of Stephens’ and Sprinkle’s Seven Years of Love as Art project, in which the couple remarried seven times (once per year) in honor of the Seven Chakras, or energy centers in the body. The two saw the project as an opportunity to challenge governmental prohibitions, censorship, and discrimination, and grow deeper in love in the process.
“Working with Beth was truly a labor of love,” says Sprinkle. “Making art together is like making love—love and creativity are linked. It was a very magical experience.”
Besides watching footage from their seven weddings, as the title of the exhibit implies, visitors can conduct their own marriage ceremonies within the Love Chapel. Using a chalkboard inside, people can write out their vows using a Mad Libs-type of form, and marry whomever they wish.
“We want to expand the heterosexual concept of a wedding,” explains Stephens. “This whole thing about love has to be about more than just humans. We’re really exploring that.”
While Stephens and Sprinkle acknowledge that not everyone shares their views on marriage and love, they hope that their installation will at least spark meaningful conversation.
“I hope [visitors] question what a wedding can be,” says Stephens, “that they realize that love is not a commodity, and that they can take action to make the world what they want.”
Once museumgoers have shared vows in the Love Chapel, they can enjoy a slew of other Love Fest activities, including a stage-sized Twister game, live music by Leah Ray Mendez and The Rasinettes, a lesson in how to fight for love with Shakespeare Santa Cruz, a Derby Girls marriage, love letter writing instruction with Santa Cruz Writes, flower bouquet arrangement with Blue Heron Farms, and Archer’s recommitment ceremony.
As if that’s not enough, Motion Pacific will also teach visitors how to tango, Dmitri Zurita will lead a performance art piece that symbolizes relationships, The Happy Herb Shop will be sampling herbs to heighten people’s sensual experiences, and UCSC psychology students will conduct tarot card, astrological love, and Chinese zodiac readings.
But don’t worry—even those who aren’t quite feeling the love these days can explore the emotions that result from heartbreak at Love Fest. In the Love Revenge room, visitors can take out all of their aggression on a piñata, pop bundles of balloons, and cut, rip or punch sugary sweet Valentines.
Love Fest takes place from 5-9 p.m. Friday, April 20, at the Museum of Art & History, 705 Front St., Santa Cruz. $5/general, $3/students, No cover/MAH Members. 429-1964. ‘All You Need is Love’ is open now through July 29.
Photos: Julian Cash