I spent my Saturday morning at a cafe on Queen West reading the newspaper. You know—a newspaper: that once authoritative collection of ink that’s printed on awkwardly large & flimsy recycled paper. Yes, people still read them—even bloggers.
After two hours of learning about the crisis in Greece, Lesbian-mothered families & tattooed Barbie dolls, I needed a break: our world is too fascinating for one cup of coffee.
I walked my bike across the street to my favourite park in the city, Trinity Bellwoods Park. I like to enter Bellwoods through the gates on the south side, even though the gate itself is just a formality, since the entire parameter of the park is otherwise open. I noticed others have this habit as well, & I laugh to myself thinking what an odd species we are.
I steered my bike off the path & into the grass, weaving between mothers with their strollers and dogs with their people. It was a nice day to be lonely.
We hit 7 billion people this week, I thought to myself; Seven billion. On the BBC website, you can find out what number human being you are by inputting your date of birth & last name. I didn’t check mine. Numbers matter to some, but not to me. Besides, what difference would it make?
The park was a palate of burnt siennas & rich ever-greens, like a vibrant impressionist painting. A romantic thought about the painter Renoir & his lover crossed my mind, but I batted it away quickly; I was decidedly a realist now. After all, summer was over.
Bellwoods is the most beautiful in the fall. Or maybe it just seems that way because you know that the nice days are numbered. The leaves hold fast to the trees until they’re ripe with colour, and then they let go when it’s time. I suddenly found myself wishing I was a leaf.
That afternoon, I was in search of the perfect tree. I wanted to sit & think & write & be outside & enjoy what little sunshine Toronto has left before we’re hit with the frost of Canadian winters. These days, I look for trees with long branches that arch over you & nearly touch the ground, trees with generous breadths that embrace you like a hug.
I found one at the center of the park. Its canary yellow leaves waved like fingers in the fall wind, whispering pick me; I listened.
—And then it happened. The beauty, I mean. I was about to sit down when the wind whistled, shifting the branches. The tree’s shadow danced & from the corner of my eye I spotted a flash of white. I looked up, and to my surprise saw four of these:
Love letters! Better yet, love letters to no one! Four small air-mail envelopes had been secured to the tree’s branches with butcher’s rope. In the bottom right-hand corner of each, the word “love” was scrawled in lean, romantic writing. As an onlooker, you wouldn’t have noticed the thin envelopes tucked inside the canopy of the tree; they were visible only once sitting beneath the tree & looking up.
I pulled one down & opened it. Inside, there was a short poem typed on decorative card-stock with embellishments:
As soon as I’d spotted the thing, I suspected I knew what was happening: the love artist of Toronto had struck again!
For those of you who haven’t heard, there’s a love artist on the loose in this city. He or she engages in Random Acts of Art, leaving love letters in trees or graffiti messages in the urban landscape. For example, earlier this summer, some anonymous romantic weaved his/her heartache in the chain-link of the Bellwoods tennis courts for all the world to see:
Toronto’s love artist is likely not one single person acting alone but a collective of people with the same goals & a similar aesthetic, like Banksy, Shakespeare, and Homer. These love artists leave random acts of art around the city for others to find, and not just in Bellwoods Park. For example, the infamous “I Love You” graffiti artist has been documented by publications like the Torontoist & social networks like Flicker:
Who are these love artists? Are the love messages meant for someone in specific, or are they general declarations of universal love for come who may? And, most importantly, why the need to express this highly personal sentiment—”I love you”—on public spaces?
Earlier this year, I befriended Gregory Alan Elliot, an artist who works in all kinds of mediums but who is best known for his love-themed street art [pictured left].
Gregory told me that his work has a number of goals: at once, he’s invested in beautifying the urban landscape while he also enjoys problematizing the very definition of art; at the same time, Gregory’s “love” work provides him with an expressive outlet since he can’t communicate with his estranged lover.
Recently, another famous artist added to Toronto’s “love art” collection. This next one is by Mr. Brainwash, the character popularized by the 2010 documentary Exit Through the Giftshop. His, also, is a message of love:
Mr. Brainwash left this piece [left] on the side of a building when he was staying in Yorkville for the Toronto International Film Festival. The other day, I walked by & noticed someone had made a vibrant addition to the now peeling away Einstein.
Who ever they are, and what ever force motivates them, the love artists of Toronto enchant me, and I owe at least one heartwarming afternoon to their elf-like work. I left Trinity Bellwoods that day smiling, love letter in hand. Seven billion people, I thought.
Three of the love letters still remain. I could have opened them, too—and believe me, I wanted to— but I decided to leave them for someone else to find. After all, I suspect others who frequent the park may also need some love.