My friend, the artist Jon Arge, has a magnificent obsession with the past. Specifically, the past as represented in old ads, catalog copy, brochures, ghastly old cookbooks of unappetizing food photos, and the like. He loves the designs artists came up with when they should have known better, or when they should have been actual artists.
For Valentine’s Day 2019, Arge has released an assortment of “elementary school-style” Valentine’s Day cards that are based on actual racy paperback book covers. In this gleeful world, we find a selection of every species of love you could realistically slap on a book cover—gay, lesbian, straight, and swap-o-rama.
What’s an “elementary school-style” Valentine? If you’re an American of a certain age, you’ll remember a time in your childhood when you received a Valentine’s Day card from every kid in your class. To make those cards cost-effective, a single design was printed on sheets of perforated card stock, which kids then broke apart to share with their classmates. This custom reached ridiculous heights in the 1970s when I was going to school. By the time I got to eighth grade, schools had to mandate a policy about holiday gift-card-giving. Either every kid in the class had to get a card—or the school banned them entirely. Because feelings.
Of course, leave it to Arge to turn something sweet and innocent into a sordid romp through our shared but very-willingly-forgotten publishing history. I asked him to describe why he felt compelled to create the cards. He shared the following:
I made these elementary school-style Valentines for one reason. A couple of years ago, my friend Mischa gave me a perforating tool. It's tiny and plastic and has a blade on it like a pizza cutter. Except, of course, the blade is perforated. Well, I immediately thought it was the greatest thing ever and I couldn't wait to use it—it was all so exciting! Except, I pretty quickly realized—I mean, what the hell do you make with a perforator? Basically, a return card to tear out of a magazine, that's what. And since my complete lack of a Recording House prohibits me from selling 12 albums for a penny, I had nothing. And, whenever I suddenly have nothing to think about, my brain just floods my head with childhood traumas. So during the remembering I knew I had to make elementary school-style valentines.
Using pulp covers was a natural. The basic shape means you can get a bunch on one sheet —so that's a lot of value and people like that. Plus, they're beautiful! With still-whispered subjects that are now familiarly taboo (like your favorite dowager who drinks her dinner at lunch and always works blue after the waiter leaves). Let's face it, the titles are genius.
The art is absolutely magnificent—the pride that beams on the down-low simply never stops thrilling. Each seems at constant war with itself—filled with words no one dared speak aloud privately—under a cover that screams the worst 7 of them in every direction.
And they're important. Incredibly important. People need to remember not to forget that, before the Internet, sex was an act, not an action. The only facts were mysteries and the entire carnival was more fabulous for it. And in the vacuum of a society too polite to talk about almost anything anywhere, these books delight with the fact that, somewhere wonderful, absolutely everything got said.
Never mind, let's be honest. Any one of them is a marvelous way to tell your favorite sweetheart(s) how you really feel. That you'd like to get a downtown swap on, Hollywood-style, with their country cousin.
I’ll leave it there. Check out the whole collection at the etsy shop. Get them now for V-day 2019, or invest in the future.
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