Barbaralee Diamonstein: Perhaps we should begin by your telling us how you happened to create LOVE . . .
Robert Indiana: Well it all started probably a long, long time ago, and it comes, of course, from a spiritual rather than an erotic beginning. When I was a child I was exposed to and involved in the Christian Science church, and all Christian Science churches are very prim and pure. Most of them have no decoration whatsoever, no stained glass windows, no carvings, no paintings, and, in fact, only one thing appears in a Christian Science church, and that’s a small, very tasteful inscription in gold, usually, over the platform where the readers conduct the service. And that inscription is God Is Love.
Well a few years ago, in the mid-sixties [Larry Aldrich] . . . had the inspiration to expose his rather large private collection to a broader public. There happened to be a building available for this in Ridgefield; it had been a grocery store back in the early nineteenth century . . . this grocery store, later on, some time in the 1920s, became a Christian Science church. Then the Christian Scientists wanted better facilities so they built themselves a new church next door.
I was at a party at Andy Warhol’s old Factory, and Aldrich was there. I didn’t know him very well, but well enough to confront him. I was a little piqued because he had no Indiana, and I thought he should. I told him that an excellent opportunity was forthcoming for a special Indiana, because since he was making his museum in a former Christian Science church, I had an idea to do a special painting just for him. And that was the reversal of the religious motto. My painting read Love Is God instead.
. . . Although the Love Is God canvas bears no relationship to what now has become a logo, it started me thinking about the subject of love. I had been at one time employed as a typist for the man who was to become the bishop of California—then Dean [James A.] Pike, later Bishop Pike, and now in some area of sainthood, I suppose. He, of course, was greatly involved with the subject of love, particularly from an ecclesiastic standpoint.
All these things kind of came together. I like to work on a square canvas, since the way I put the letters down, it is the most economical, the most dynamic way to put four letters on a square canvas.
That is how the LOVE came about . . .
Excerpt from Barbarelee Diamonstein. “Robert Indiana.” In Inside New York’s Art World, pp. 151–66. New York: Rizzoli, 1979.