Shannon Weber is the mother of three teenagers. Shannon Weber is a Social Worker in a program for pregnant women with HIV. Shannon Weber is an artist (www.loveyou2.org). Shannon Weber is a subversive who mounts her art in public places without permission. But whether mother, social worker, artist or activist, Shannon Weber spreads love.
Shannon Weber’s art is simple, yet profound. She creates messages, love notes, and posts them on walls and fences, often in poor or industrial landscapes. She humanizes these places and reaches out to people who may not feel embraced. “It’s about capturing the connection between us. We want to love and be loved.”
When Shannon’s children were young, she had to travel for work. She left ‘I love you’ notes on the refrigerator, then on the fence outside their house. “When I tell my kids I love them, I am telling myself as well.” Others saw Shannon’s notes and responded in love and gratitude.
Creating and posting love notes became a family project. “I keep signs in my car. My kids have an intuitive sense about good places for notes.” Once mounted, Shannon is unattached to her work. “It’s enough to do it for me and my kids. I also do it in response to my own need; it’s my radical rebuttal to the news and media.” But her signs are usually well maintained, sometimes embellished, evidence that they’re meaningful to others as well.
“I didn’t think of myself as an artist until I started love notes. Now I see my whole life as art. Being an artist is the fulfillment of my true self.”
“When I first started doing this, people would say, ‘are you looking to meet someone?’ I would say, ‘yes, I just met you.’” Like many artists, Shannon’s work is evolving. Her first notes almost all had the word ‘love’ in them. Then she created a set with high schoolers in mind that used ‘like’ and ‘cool’. More recently she’s developed a project that’s more participatory, 5×7 sheets with a few words and blank lines that people can complete.
Four years after Shannon began ‘love notes’ her brother committed suicide. At his service, people said wonderful things about him. Shannon wondered whether expressed their feelings while he was alive, or whether he could hear this from the other side. That service reaffirmed her commitment to her project. Hearing that story stirred my own shortcomings in sharing love, a word I sometimes write, occasionally say on the phone, but rarely voice in person. Why is it so hard for me, and many others, to say the word? Stating an emotion so powerful face to face, out loud, is daunting. Perhaps Shannon’s art can make it easier.
“In my job, I worked with a couple, a straight couple, who came forward about having HIV. Their disclosure drew negative comments. I made signs, ‘Love is the answer’ and connected them to the couple’s statement. I helped to celebrate their courage rather than denigrate their disease.” Shannon’s signs helped turn the conversation around. “Hatred doesn’t honor what we have in common. What we have in common is love and wanting to be loved.”
How will we live tomorrow?
“I see a world of love notes. I want to travel the world in an Airstream and post love notes wherever we need them.”