New art exhibit explores love letters in contemporary society

Beach Grove artists Steve Hawkins and Bettina Harvey are asking the question: Can love flourish in the digital age?

They are posing the query as part of a new art exhibition, A Year in Transit, which will be on view at Alternative Creations Studio, 1659 Venables St., Vancouver, from Friday, Feb. 21 to Monday, Feb. 24. There’s an opening reception on Friday from 6 to 9 p.m.

Hawkins and Harvey are interested in how communication within a relationship flourishes despite technology. By merging high-speed digital messaging and traditional painting techniques, their work employs a socio-behavioural perspective to explore the role of love letters in contemporary society. 

In today’s fast-paced world, people in relationships are turning to digital media to manage interpersonal interaction and maintain their connections when apart. Although the desired outcome is intimacy, they are often left with contradictory feelings of isolation and detachment.

By capturing and texting iPhone images and videos that represent observations of his daily Delta-Vancouver commute, and work experiences around the Lower Mainland, Hawkins initiated a connection with his wife. She responded by reimagining the texted images in her studio.

Through this process, the daily distance between them became less significant as they remained constantly engaged in imaginative reflection about the space their loved one occupied.

“By committing to a year-long project employing text and photo-based interactions, we found that communication within our relationship deepened rather than weakened,” Hawkins said. “Instead of just handwritten letters mailed over long distances, there are now many more ways to communicate because of technology. The interpersonal and creative potential of in-your-pocket technology is limitless.”

The contemporary art exhibit will present the year-long multidisciplinary project in a unique installation of texted iPhone images, painting, audio and video.

Drawing from their diverse backgrounds, they frequently collaborate on photographic, video and visual art projects.

Hawkins has worked as a news videographer and editor in the TV industry for the past 35 years. His photography has been published in numerous books and magazines, while Harvey’s most recent work examines the intersections between botany, ecology and humanity, and can be viewed in galleries across the Lower Mainland.




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