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‘Love and Stuff’ at Norwich Arts Center

What’s love?

Hard to say, exactly. It comes in so many varieties, sizes, guises, colors, complexities and intents. We toss the word around as if it always means the same thing. But it doesn’t. More than any other word, it means something different with each mention.

What to love? Your mate? Your pal? Your kid? Your dog? Your truck? Your pillow? Your job? Five o’clock Friday? Flannel sheets? The beach? Closing a deal? Burping up turkey on Thanksgiving?

Art?

Art: as hard to define as love. You know it when you see it. You see it, and then you feel it. And there it is — the inner bliss of witnessing beauty in a world too full of woe and too lacking in love.

Art and love should be cherished for their rarity. Each instance is unique. Each needs to be appreciated. Each longs to be eternal.

And just as art blossoms because otherwise it doesn’t, love loves because it’s what love must do to be. True love and beauty both exist only in the absence of reason. They sense that absence, and they fill it with something else, an immeasurable universe deep and dense with mystery.

It’s all so foolish. Love, let’s face it, requires some fooling around. And artists know that if they’re not having fun, they’re doing it wrong.

Love measured and defined lacks the guts that make it real. Art described and deconstructed lacks its own essence. Each is ineffable, unutterable, sensed in silence, understood in a place beyond understanding.

That said, what to do about Valentine’s Day? Chocolate’s sweet, but what does it say? An off-the-shelf card says something, but it’s just some standard banality that belies its own intent. Dinner in a fancy eatery’s nice, but how long does it last? Love should be more than a luxury cruise down the Alimentary Canal.

The answer’s obvious. What but beauty can speak to love? Art is the gift that goes beyond the present. It speaks beyond the reach of words. Its silence goes deep and deeper.

But where to find this art of the heart? Walmart? No. The Louvre? Well, yeah, but it’s going to take a lot of fast-talk in French, plus of course it’s on the wrong side of the ocean.

Your better bet: Norwich Arts Center. The exhibit of the month is on the theme of Love. You can acquire something priceless for less than the cost of a decent wine. You can find something that says what you cannot say. You can say it with not just fine art but cards, jewelry and aesthetic crafts created by local folk.

Norwich Arts Center, right downtown at 60 Broadway, is open Thursdays through Saturdays, noon to 4 p.m. Feb. 14 is a Monday, so you’d better get there before then.

Glenn Alan Cheney is author of “Notions from a Time of Peril,” a collection of his essays that have appeared in this and other newspapers.

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