Marcy B. Freedman would like you to stop texting, checking email or posting to Facebook – at least for a little while.
The performance artist is asking people to take a break from their virtual worlds and experience the here and now through one of her interactive performances.
Freedman, who lives in Croton-on-Hudson and has a studio in Peekskill, is again taking Valentine’s Day as her cue.
As part of her year-round performance schedule, Freedman is now in her sixth year of designing and presenting a series of works inspired by what many consider the most romantic day of the year.
While diverse in approaches, the pieces share a common theme – encouraging people to rediscover the power of face-to-face, one-to-one interaction.
“I guess everything, deep down, I do is about connecting,” Freedman says. “As commercialized as Valentine’s Day is, I love the fact that it’s not solely about romance. For me, Valentine’s Day is about valuing people.”
It encompasses, Freedman says, friendships and relationships in general.
The visual artist has a rich past filled with painting, drawing, collage, sculpture and photography.
“I think I’ve also always been a conceptual artist,” she says. “Ideas are fascinating to me.”
She has devoted much of the past 10 years to video and performance art. To date, this has found Freedman presenting her pieces in bookstores, cafés, art galleries and museums, as well as a fitness center, tailor’s shop and bakery. She is tapped for many private events, something she does between her work as an art historian, lecturer and curator. Freedman is also an active participant in the Peekskill Project, a major arts undertaking in the city with its sixth edition set for later this year.
Valentine’s Day is always special, though, and this year Freedman will offer her performance Feb. 14 at the Black Cow Coffee Company in Croton-on-Hudson.
In “True or False? Love Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry,” Freedman looks to “Love Story,” the 1970 movie starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw, to spur a conversation about the meaning of love.
The tearjerker’s tagline, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” is a phrase, Freedman says, that “has always bothered me… Let’s see if other people feel the way that I do.”
In speaking to a few people – especially those who have been married a long time – Freedman says the sentiment always seems to raise a fuss.
“They all say, ‘I’ve been married 40 years. You have to say you’re sorry.’”
On Valentine’s Day, Freedman will be chatting with anyone who would like to join her table in the bustling coffeehouse, which has long supported both Freedman’s work and the arts in general. This will mark her third Valentine’s project at the coffeehouse.
It was back in 2010 that she launched the holiday series with “My Funny Valentine” in a Tarrytown art gallery.
A week before Valentine’s Day, Freedman asked visitors to tell her about a loved one.
“I realized people like to talk about positive things, for the most part. Valentine’s Day is positive.”
She took notes and went on to create a personalized collage or poem in honor of that loved one, a gift the participant could present on Valentine’s Day itself. While she did receive a number of lovely thank-you notes, Freedman says the best part of that project was the afternoon she spent listening to people talk about someone they loved, something she has described as “a beautiful experience.”
Since that initial project, her interactive performances, held in various Westchester communities, have encouraged reminiscences about kisses (“First Kiss Remembered”) or pets (“For the Love of Dogs”), which she says elicited surprisingly emotional results. (“I had grown men crying.”)
In an ambitious 2013 work, Freedman put the spotlight on the power of two decidedly low-tech forms of communicating, writing and talking. “The Letter Project” found Freedman set up at the Black Cow every single February afternoon, offering free pens, paper, envelopes and stamps to those who would sit down to first chat and then write to someone in their life. At the end of the month, Freedman had spoken to more than 250 people, with each of them writing at least one postcard, notecard or letter to someone.
“People would write to people they hadn’t been in touch with,” she says. Some, she would later hear, rekindled old friendships or started the healing of family rifts. Others simply put something in writing to their spouses.
Freedman was especially pleased with her youngest participants.
“I was very excited to introduce teenagers to the idea of writing.”
This year, Freedman looks forward to the reactions her “Love Story”-themed concept will draw out as well.
After all, she says, “I’m really interested in storytelling.”
And this month, what’s better than sharing a story about love?
Marcy B. Freedman will present her interactive performance, “True or False? Love Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry,” from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 14 at the Black Cow Coffee Company, 4 Old Post Road S. in Croton-on-Hudson. For more on the coffeehouse, visit blackcow.com; for more on the performance, contact Freedman at 914-271-5891 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on her artistic pursuits, visit marcybfreedman.com.