Art & Divorce: Why does love turn to hate?

Art therapy is not just for divorcees. Because after work yesterday, I felt in need of some alone time and tranquility, far away from the madding crowd. So I jumped on a train and headed to 71st Street and 5th Avenue, to an oasis in the middle of New York City called the Frick Collection. I’ve always loved the Frick since I was first introduced to it by an art teacher in college. There is something very peaceful and contemplative about the space. So I spent a couple of hours there, and I was sure to visit the Fragonard Room where a series of paintings originally commissed by Madame Du Barry (mistress of King Louis XV of France), called Progress of Love, are displayed.
Afterwards I sat in the Frick’s garden next to the sculpture by Stoldo Lorenzi called After that faces a pool with stones at the bottom and two frogs spitting water at each other. While jotting down ideas in my little black journal, I listened to the incessant gush of the fountains.
I found myself thinking about “love” and “divorce” and wondering why such a beautiful emotion often ends up with the prince and princess turned into frogs who spit and shout at each other, and who very likely “hate” each other too after so many hours “loving” each other. For many, hate is as much a part of the love story as the love itself.
Hate. Why does love so often turn to hate? I like to say there is nobody in the world that I “hate” but maybe that is not quite true. I mean, what is “hate”? Why do people “hate” those they once loved? To me, hate is very energy-sapping, generally speaking. I don’t like my energies sapped on negative things. Even in a non-love context, hating someone who has done me wrong is not an emotion I can sustain–it’s just too intense. I mean, I hang on to hurts (I don’t easily forget being emotionally maimed by another) and I may distrust forever, and I may summarily dismiss this person from my consciousness (sort of like they were never here to begin with), and I may go to a place in my soul that is just ice cold where this person is concerned, or I may even “dislike” the person, but I am not sure if I would say that I “hate” any other human being.
But is it really hate that I feel? Is that what it means that love has turned to hate when you obliterate someone you used to profess to love from your consciousness and you hang on to hurts and fail to forgive and forget? Or is HATE a stronger emotion? And if it is a stronger emotion, what are the symptoms and manifestations of hate? What does an ex do when they “hate” their former spouse? Do they stalk them on the Internet? (In that regard I may have a hater although I doubt it’s a former lover though I can’t imagine who it is and why?!) Do they make up lies to prevent them from seeing their kids? What does an ex spouse do when their love turns to hate? How does this work? This type of Hate? I think it is more like wishing someone harm, or orchestrating the harm to another or destroying another, or plotting the destruction of another….I really think this emotion is more intense than anything I have ever personally felt.
The Fragonard Progress of Love, series of paintings begin with The Pursuit, then there is The Meeting, The Love Letters, and end with Love Triumphant….quite appropriately, I suppose….But how many divorced couples like, say, Heather Mills and Paul McCartney and Countess Marie Douglas David and George David and, jeeze, any other acrimoniously divorced couple would agree that these are the true progression of love? Would any of them cop to “hating” the other?
After leaving the museum, I headed to Chinatown to meet a friend who had sent me a text message to meet up for Dim Sum. I walked all the way from 71st Street to Canal Street, among the bustle and noisy taxi cabs, and the people tightly jammed on the pavements, thinking about the Fragonard paintings. Beautiful and effusive though they are, there is something that is missing, there is something Fragonard forgot. I was sure of it and it was bugging the heck out of me. Because I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was missing. What is wrong with the paintings? It wasn’t until I made an emergency loo stop at the Grand Central Library (midway between 71st and Canal) that I figured out what it was, finally.
Fragonard had forgotten the last and most dramatic part of the progress of love: HATE. He had forgotten to depict when love turns to hate. That is as important a part of the rectangle of love as any of the other three. Wouldn’t you agree?
Originally published April 25, 2009 as Divorce: Did your love turn to hate