8 Artist-Couples on Valentine's Day and the Art of Love

Marlene McCarty and Christine Vachon. All photos by Charlie Rubin for The Creators Project

It was either Pablo Picasso or John Lennon who said "Love is the greatest refreshment in life," so who cares? For an artist, whose day job involves honing the senses to their most refined capacities, love is like the medium mixed into all things. From filmmakers to painters, designers, and more, The Creators Project caught up with eight artist-couples to talk relationships, first dates, and why artists make better lovers. 

KAWS and Julia Chiang


Julia Chiang: Artist/mom

KAWS: Artist

Length of relationship: Almost 8 years, married 3.

What's your side of the story of how you met?:

Julia: We had known each other through mutual friends for years but didn't really start talking until we both fell out of relationships around the same time and started seeing each other out more. Not a love at first sight story!

KAWS: I met Julia ages ago and apparently she thought I was a jerk when we met but I don’t remember because I was too busy being me.

Best Valentine's Day activity or treat?:

Julia: I love all the Valentine's Day candy displays in pharmacies. If I could ignore all the crap it's made of, I'd eat it all. I used to collect a lot of it. It's just so over the top with literal sweetness and sentiment! And I used to take pictures of the displays at the old Walgreen's on Atlantic Ave in downtown Brooklyn. They were awesome. I'd say a favorite Valentine treat with Brian would be going to Nitehawk and watching a movie. We usually make each other something too.  

KAWS: I just need to make sure I get Julia lots of candy and all goes well after that.

How has being with another artist changed you?:

Julia: I've grown thicker skin! And...we work so differently so I learn a lot from how he does things and how he deals with everything.    

KAWS: I’m not sure if it has anything to do with being artists but being with Julia has made me a better person.

Best advice for someone who is single on Valentine's Day?

Julia: Single or not, it's a made up holiday to celebrate love. So if you're into it, have fun and indulge, if not...it's just another day. I love the extra-ness of the day so I used to get into it and part of it was just an excuse to make something for friends. No such thing as 'too cheesy' on Valentine's, in my opinion.

KAWS: I would tell them not to put to much weight into Hallmark holidays.

Would you recommend making art with your significant other?

Julia: Yeah it can be so fun! But for public sharing I wouldn't know—haven't crossed that line yet!

KAWS: Only when it seems right.

Sheree Hovsepian and Rashid Johnson


Sheree Hovsepian: Artist

Rashid Johnson: Artist

Length of relationship: 13 years, married 7 years

What's your side of the story of how you met?:

Sheree: We met at Danny's Lounge in Chicago. I was on a date with someone he knew from high school. The rest is history.

Rashid: We met in Chicago at a Bar called Danny's. Sheree was on a date with another guy. It was love at first sight.

Best Valentine's Day activity or treat?:

Sheree: Stay at home and have dinner and a nice cuddle. It's amateur night out there!

Rashid: Stay home and make a nice dinner. 

How has being with another artist changed you?:

Sheree: I learned so much about being an artist from Rashid. I am inspired by his focus and accomplishments built upon a humble foundation of love and joy for what he does.

Rashid: You always have a smart, thoughtful eye and ear with you. That's both challenging and comforting.

Best advice for someone who is single on Valentine's Day?:

Sheree: Have fun on those dating apps. I missed out on all that.

Rashid: Don't hide. Treat yourself to a nice dinner. 

Would you recommend making art with your significant other?

Sheree: I don't know. It's not something we do. Probably no. 

Rashid: Why not?

Becca McCharen-Tran and Christine McCharen-Tran


Becca McCharen-Tran: Fashion designer, Chromat

Christine McCharen-Tran: Experiential designer, co-founder of Discwoman

Length of relationship: 4 YEARS OF BLISS

What's your side of the story of how you met?:

Christine: We met through a mutual friend at Tandem Bar. 

Becca: Then she DM’d me ;)

Best Valentine's Day activity or treat?: ​Dancing in the living room

How has being with another artist changed you?:

Becca: She inspires me to work harder, always.

Christine: Constantly finding inspiration. Challenging the norm. She opens me up to different ways of seeing.

Best advice for someone who is single on Valentine's Day?:

Becca: Celebrate Galentines Day and the power of female friendships.

Christine: Treat yourself.

Would you recommend making art with your significant other?

Becca: Yes, we’re lucky enough to work together every season for fashion week. Once I finish the collection, Christine works with me to produce the runway show. She’s an amazing event producer and I love working with her. She’s so organized! And then for her Discwoman events, I’m the merch girl :)

Christine: We’re always finding new ways in which our work complements each others'.

Justin Hager and Kristine Reano


Justin Hager: Painter/Illustrator

Kristine Reano: Painter/Designer

Length of relationship: 4.5 years

What's your side of the story of how you met?:

Justin: I met her through mutual friends and I had a crush on her from the first time we met each other. Somehow she said yes to going on a date with me. We were best buds instantly and I still have a crush on her.

Kristine: We have a ton of mutual friends, but didn’t actually meet until way later. I always saw him around and always thought he was so cute. Once I finally met him and we got to talking, I instantly knew that he was the one—that my dream guy was finally here.

Best Valentine's Day activity or treat?: 

Justin: We like to eat steaks from Peter Luger’s in Brooklyn. 

Kristine: Not celebrating! We always do our thing post-14th—it’s way more chill and feels more genuine.  

How has being with another artist changed you?: 

Justin: It's been the most amazing thing ever. I've never been able to truly share ideas, brainstorm, and have real-talk constructive criticism with anyone in the past. It's really cool to be able to do that all the time. Having her support and just being around her in general has made me so much happier and confident in everything in my life. I learn from her every day, and to be able to create with my favorite person in the universe is a dream come true.

Kristine: It’s a special thing navigating the world with someone who is wired the same way as you. There’s a deeper level of understanding and support because you know the same struggles, battle with the same demons and experience the same triumphs and joys that come with creating. Plus it’s just so much more fun! I’m really lucky to have met someone who accepts and celebrates who I am, and inspires me every single day.  

Best advice for someone who is single on Valentine's Day?:

Justin: Go to the bar.

Kristine: Hang out with friends instead.

Would you recommend making art with your significant other?

Justin: Yeah! we actually did a collaboration show a couple years ago. I’m left handed and Kristine is right handed so we painted at the same time, with an hour time limit for each painting. it was the most fun ive ever had painting with her.

Kristine: Yes! We constantly collaborate on things and find new ways to keep it fun and motivate each other.

Marlene McCarty and Christine Vachon


Marlene McCarty: Artist

Christine Vachon: Film producer

Length of relationship: 23 (or 24) years

What's your side of the story of how you met?:

Marlene: I was doing film titles on Tom Kalin’s film, SWOON. Christine was producing the film. The first time I was introduced to her was by Tom at Universal Grill. (Remember that place?) But things got real at a party for Todd Haynes' birthday.

Christine: We met when Marlene did film titles for SWOON. But we REALLY fell for each other at a birthday party for Todd Haynes

Best Valentine's Day activity or treat?:

Marlene: Caviar

Christine: We pretty much ignore it. I guess this picture was our treat!

How has being with another artist changed you?:

Marlene: It’s made me a stronger artist at the core. My partner is a filmmaker. Film and filmmakers get all the attention when you’re in everyday social situations, like a party. Art is absolutely not respected in the world in the way that film is. To weather that makes one very strong.

Christine: She’s the artist, not me. She has made me much more discerning about what I like and why I like it

Best advice for someone who is single on Valentine's Day?:

Marlene: Eat caviar. 

Christine: A lot of rosé wine. But that’s my advice for everyone.

Would you recommend making art with your significant other?

Marlene: Yes but definitely not all the time.

Christine: Sure.

Jo Rosenthal and Jack Wedge


Jack Wedge: Animator/painter/student

Jo Rosenthal: Artist and writer

Length of relationship: 69

What's your side of the story of how you met?: 

Jack: I met Jo when I walked into a store on 7th St where she works. I walked in by accident because I thought it was a thrift shop and I wanted to buy some big sheets to make a ghost character for a student film. We talked for probably five minutes. They did not sell large ghost sheets. I asked her what her name was and I told her I was at NYU and my name is Jack. Then she stalked me on the internet and I messaged her and accused her of stalking me. We went on a date about two weeks later and I saw her studio and her spider etchings and then we went to Dairy Queen. 

Jo: He came into my job and asked if we sold bedsheets for a movie he was filming. I want to say that the rest is history, but actually I didn’t get his number that day and so after he left my job I tried to find him with the little information I already knew about him and had a friend (who I assumed had mutual friends with him help me find him.) She ended up knowing of him and helped me find his Instagram and I followed. He slid into those DM’s, we went to Dairy Queen and THE rest is herstory. ;)

How has being with another artist changed you?:

Jack: It's therapeutic to talk about our work together as well as what we want to do in the future. I look forward to showing her new work. I lean on her for support and also criticism. We push each other to think of new ideas, projects, stories.

Jo: Jack takes a sketchbook with him wherever he goes and is constantly drawing the world around him. I feel like that makes me want to draw the world around me (so cheesy, I KNOW) but really, it is so wonderful to be able to get feedback on work and be able to show each other the finished pieces. I am always challenged, supported and motivated to do my best work by someone who isn’t myself, and that feels nice.

Best Valentine's Day activity or treat?

Jo: Probably eating cookies or ice cream and staring at each other, but I feel like we do that everyday.

Jack: Hang with us!

Best advice for someone who is single on Valentine's Day?

Both: Come over!

Would you recommend making art with your significant other?

Jack: Yes.

Jo: I would recommend doing anything with a significant other as long as it was fun and didn’t involve breaking the other person’s heart.

Deborah Kass and Patricia Cronin


Patricia Cronin: Artist and professor

Deborah Kass: Artist

Length of relationship: 24 years together, married since July 24, 2011, the first day gay marriage was legal in New York State.

What's your side of the story of how you met?:

Patricia: We met when I visited Deb’s studio for a show I was co-curating, Coming to Power: 25 Years of Sexually X-plicit Art By Women.

Best Valentine's Day activity or treat?: We always stay home and have too much fun!

How has being with another artist changed you?: I have no idea. I’ve only been in relationships with creative people. We speak the same language and think outside of the box.

Best advice for someone who is single on Valentine's Day?: I don’t think I’ve ever been single on Valentine’s Day—my favorite holiday—so I’ve got nothing.

Would you recommend making art with your significant other? No, not with a romantic partner or anyone else! I’m not a collaborative-arts type person.

Trudy Benson and Russell Tyler


Trudy Benson: Artist

Russell Tyler: Artist 

Length of relationship: Nearly 8-and-a-half years

What's your side of the story of how you met?:

Trudy: Russell and I met at the Bring Your Own Art show at Pratt, where we were both starting out in grad school. I noticed his painting first, which was an expressive remix of Reubens' The Lion Hunt. There was a lot of traditional figurative painting and his work really stood out. It was the best painting in the room, and when I saw Russell, I knew that he had painted it.  We were immediately drawn to each other and ended up hanging out most of the night on a friend’s rooftop.  

Russell: We met during the first week of Grad School at a bring your own art student exhibition. I saw Trudy from across the room and thought she was too beautiful. I immediately went to go talk to her. We liked each other’s work, got along swimmingly, and ended up hanging out that night. We’ve been together ever since!

Best Valentine's Day activity or treat?: 

Trudy: We usually go out to dinner. This year we are going to get our cat neutered and then eat Peruvian food.

How has being with another artist changed you?: 

Trudy: When I was starting to get to know Russell, I really admired his studio practice.  He was always painting and so prolific. My own studio practice was not so rigorous and I had been feeling lost in the studio.  His paintings and his practice inspired me to push harder and change my work, look at different materials and paint applications.  I wouldn’t be the artist I am today had we not met.

Russell: It’s made me a more focused artist.

Best advice for someone who is single on Valentine's Day?:

Trudy: I don’t think people need advice because they are single on Valentine’s Day, but if you are in a place where being single on that particular day is depressing, I would say to be social. If you are an artist, go to the studio.

Would you recommend making art with your significant other?

Trudy: It depends! Russell and I don’t do so well collaborating on one piece. He is more of a planner and I am more intuitive. We have had studios next to each other since grad school, so in that sense I suppose we are always making paintings side by side. Never on the same canvas. Having that other set of eyes at your disposal, having someone who is about as close to the work as they can be without actually making it, is so valuable.  We are always talking to each other about what’s happening in the studio. Sometimes you are too close to the work to really see it.

Russell: Trudy and I work with are studios adjacent from each other.  We’ve been working that way since grad school. So yes.

Want more Valentine's Day art? Visit The Creators Project on Instagram.


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