• Betty Bastai

Online Dating Turns Into Art

Updated: Feb 18

Last year, I wanted to create a pop-up art installation with small drawings on paper and a ‘street’ cactus. For some unexpected reasons I did do it but the idea had been floating in my head since then. Few days ago, I felt that it was the right time to pick up this idea again and complete it for good.

Today, St. Valentine’s Day, I planned to install 20 small heart-shaped self-portraits on a cow’s tongue prickly cactus that was growing in a triangular traffic island several blocks away from where I live. The work is titled Online Dating Valentine and it is based on my recent online dating experiences. For several months I have been taking self-portraits to upload on my profile. I also associated the photographs with specific songs that you can listen to by clicking on the hearts.

The weather had been rather mild and dry for weeks until yesterday when a winter storm reached central New Mexico and engulfed Albuquerque with a bang! The first thunderstorm of 2021 unleashed spectacular lightings that, surprisingly, did not produced deafening thunders, but illuminated the city sky as if the sun was still shining. Today, an arctic wind blew snow through ice-covered street. Despite the challenging weather I was determined to stick to my plan and walked to the site where I wanted to install Online Dating Valentine.

Naively, I thought that it would have been easy to hang those heart-shaped self-portraits on a cactus using its spines as hooks. In reality, it was a real hassle. Almost all the plant’s spines were pointing downward and could not hold the hearts in place at all. At the same time, I had to move my arms and hands very slowly to avoid being stabbed by the spines that I didn’t utilize as hooks. On top of that, I couldn’t feed the spines through the little holes that I had punched in the paper hearts while wearing my thick winter gloves so I had to use my bare hands. Every time that the icy wind was whipping them I clenched my teeth and kept telling myself to hold on.

Eventually, my fingers started to feel extremely cold. I didn’t want to end up having frostbites for the sake of art so I gave up the idea of hanging all of the 20 hearts. While I was securing half of them on the plant I could hear folks walking by. Thankfully nobody stopped to ask me what I was doing because I was in a mad rush to finish impaling the hearts on the cactus safely, take some photographs, pack my stuff and put my hands back inside my gloves. After I was done, I walked home as fast as I could carrying a heart filled with a sense of accomplishment.

Would you like to share your thoughts? Log in and leave a comment here or you can reach me at ebastaivisuals@gmail.com.

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