I had seen a large retrospective of Demuth’s work and was mightily impressed. So I got off on that subject. I used the Demuth painting as a theme and, not liking to do those kinds of things, I decided to make the painting an homage to Demuth because I’m very fond of his work. There were five paintings all related to that particular theme, and those words simply came from earlier works. Some of my first word paintings were, for instance, just ‘EAT’ ‘DIE.’ And ‘EAT’ ‘DIE’ of course stem from the fact that the last word that my mother said before she died was ‘Eat.’ But it relates to other aspects of the American scene. To complement ‘EAT’ ‘DIE’—one really couldn’t go on doing that forever—I thought of the supplementary idea of ‘HUG’ ‘ERR.’ ‘HUG’ was a family word for giving affection and so forth, and so it began to suggest covering some of the more formal aspects of life—existence and love and survival and sin and what have you.
— Robert Indiana
William Peterson and Bob Tomlinson, “Robert Indiana,” Artspace 1 (Fall 1976), p. 6.