A common thread throughout the majority of public art is positivity. Whether this is through the form of performance, statue, or mural, a strong desire woven into many pieces meant for pedestrian consumption is that they strike a bright chord. While there are certainly those of empowering or socio-politically critical bends, there is certainly a lean towards hopeful beacons of expression sewn throughout cities, and so it comes as no surprise how resonant the Big Love Balls of Vancouver, British Colombia were when a new pop-up appeared across the Canadian city this past week.
Without much explanation, one can likely conjure the image of the Big Love Balls—in an entirely safe-for-work connotation. Large (person-height), plastic, glossy neon pink spheres, all huddled into a pile and each emblazoned with the word “LOVE”. These pearly pyramids of pink sprouted up across shipyards and other sections of Northern Vancouver as a pop-up, to the seeming delight of passersby.
The Big Love Balls are a piece of the larger project Big Love Ball by B.C. artist Wendy Williams Watt. And the reason the interior designer/art director began this venture six years ago is understandable enough. “I created Big Love Ball for countless reasons,” Watt states on her website. “But simply put, it’s what I feel inside. It is a physical expression of a feeling I have when I interact with people who are genuinely opening their hearts.” And in so many ways, pop-up public works like these are the best way to manifest those feelings of interaction with the broadest of audiences.
By no means a new sight for the citizens of Vancouver, all things Big Love Ball seem to still draw admiration from the city. “I want people in our community to know they are loved, and they are a valued part of our community,” Mayor Linda Buchanan stated. Watt’s balls of love have taken all sorts of forms and held all sorts of homes—pins, stickers, and hot air balloons; shop windows, streets, and city hall.
A very obvious comparison can be drawn from Watt’s works to the most iconic and replicated public artworks, Love by Robert Indiana. The simplistic piece of pop-art history, based on Indiana’s design which originally appeared as the New York MoMA’s 1965 Christmas card cover, can be seen across the globe in countless languages and alphabets. But the striking red letters, the signature titling O, and the magnetic draw these sculptures all hold for passersby are universal to each rendition of the piece.
Both Love and Big Love Balls hold the purest message of all, a simple expression of love, and so it is little surprise why these works are so beloved. Wendy Williams Watt taps into the same bare essence as Robert Indiana, one that almost anyone can find themselves in agreement to. There are few things nobler than the desire to flourish love in the hearts of strangers, and it is highly likely this isn’t the last time we’ll see a beaming beacon of “LOVE” bouncing by.