Taking a yoga class at Valery Philip's studio in Bloomfield is a way to keep both mind and body healthy. Looking up from the cobra pose, I often fix my gaze upon a large screen impression of painter Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss" that hangs, or rather floats, from the studio's loft ceiling.
Completed in 1908, Klimt's piece is an opulent paean to passionate love. The gold leaf and pattern surrounding two lovers forever entwined helps set my mind free to find love, beauty and stillness in my pose. The cobra pose is, after all, supposed to help open the space around the heart.
Opening up that space can be a catalyst, releasing memories. Recently, I was transported back 25 years to the day when I first gazed upon Oskar Kokoschka's "Bride of the Wind (die Windsbraut)."
A large canvas painted in oil in 1913, this piece took me by storm at the Kunstmuseum in Basel, Switzerland. A tumultuous, flowing rendition of romance and love despite the odds, the painting's imagery has come back to me time and again, for different reasons.
Currently, the painting reminds me of love's potential at any age, and that even though we die, love is timeless, and true love cannot be worn away by the elements around us, much as we may worry about that from time to time.
Nurturing that kind of love is important, but how do we do so now, almost a century later, surrounded with the fleeting images of today's popular culture and its incessant commercialism?
Feb. 14 is Valentine's Day. Initially established by Pope Gelasius I in 500AD, it was originally a religious holiday.
Today's Valentine's Day is a commercialized travesty, reinvented by greeting card companies and co-opted by the candy industry. You cannot seem to escape the hype.
Considering those artists who were masters of capturing a universal emotion — that of attachment to and affection toward an intimate partner — has me thinking. A lot of art and culture focusses on matters of the heart. As purchasers, we can take back ownership of Valentine's Day from the commercialized entity that it has become by considering the original rationale for the holiday; as individuals, those of us whose budget may not always be as large as the affection we wish to express can find a gift that focusses on our love and commitment, rather than its dollar value equivalent.
Why not just plan to spend time together with that special person, and spring for tickets to a local play? The production I saw last Saturday night at the Picton Community Centre — Prince Edward Community Theatre's production of Sam Bobrick's "Remember Me?" — is quite "romantical", as my pal Monty would say.
Or consider penning a sonnet. Hire a singer to compose a song for you and yours. Paint a picture to go with those dozen roses.
Yoga classes for two would be time well spent for some couples. Or find a simple, handmade gift, locally made, something as unique as your love for the recipient.
After all, you don't have to be like Van Gogh, cutting off his ear as a gift for his paramour. Passion, like art, is a great way to spice up a romantic relationship, but it shouldn't be destructive. Instead, use the scissors to cut out a coupon for a romantic meal at a County restaurant, or to create a homemade Valentine's card.
Let's take back the true meaning of the day set aside to celebrate the fact that we all fall in love.