In this series of articles, international artist Ana Tzarev explores the history of love as depicted through art. The third installment focuses on representations of patriotic love.
Ana's Thought: "The Mind of a Nation is seen through its Art."
The love of one's homeland has long lived among the most moving kinds of passion. To stand up for your beliefs - freedom, justice, equality - and to defend the people and places who represent these principles is truly noble, creating a bond that little can break. But such strong conviction may come at a cost - a fact that Art throughout the ages acknowledges and reflects.
Patriotic Love has touched my life in profound ways. I grew up in the shadow of a tremendous giant, the Second World War. My childhood was cast into its darkness; it was only through persistence that I survived and was able to bloom. It was Patriotic Love that took the lives of family members and friends, those who fought in battle and those who were lost as casualties. I chose to make my Love & Peace sculptures poppies, the symbol of remembrance, to honour all who have been taken from us by the grip of war. I hope to turn the heaviness of loss into something beautiful, beacons to inspire harmony among all nations.
One of Tzarev's Love & Peace flowers, on display in Prague until 31 August 2013.
When Patriotic Love breeds a desire for selfish gain, it leads to the downfall of many great men; Caesar, Napoleon, and Alexander the Great all fell sway to its allure. It can cause the corruption of spirit seen in leaders like Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco. They would twist and distort Art to fit with their ideals, using it to produce propaganda and forbidding all that challenged their vision. In the face of such oppression, Patriotic Love shines most brightly in Art: when voices are silenced, images speak boldly.
An example of wartime propaganda juxtaposed against an anti-propaganda piece by collage artist John Heartfield.
Although Patriotic Love has given history some of its villains, it also has produced many heroes. Countless figures strove to protect what they held dear, in the true spirit of patriotism. They are the ones who are preserved in legend, captured by Art so that they may inspire generations. When I think of Patriotic Love, my mind does not focus on tragedy. I envision the strength and glory of works like Oath of the Horatii by Jacques-Louis David. There is grace to be found in such devotion - and that is something people of all lands can admire.
Detail from David's Oath of the Horatii.
Love is a force whose power is unrivaled. It is a coursing current guided by a Divine hand, and no obstacle can stop its endless flow through the Universe. Like any great power, it can be harnessed for both goodness and harmful purposes. Love is meant to unite us, not divide us. We must handle something so magnificent with respect and care. When we express feelings of Love for the countries we call home, may we also celebrate the unique treasures that each land possesses, preserving them through Art as a gift to the world.