Imperial Valley Press

Artist Robert Indiana, known for ‘LOVE’ series, dies at 89

- BY DAVID SHARP

PORTLAND, Maine — Pop artist Robert Indiana, best known for his 1960s “LOVE” series, has died at his island home off the coast of Maine. He was 89.

Indiana died on Saturday from respirator­y failure at his Victorian home in a converted Odd Fellows hall, a fraternal order lodge, where he had lived for years on Vinalhaven Island, said James Brannan, his attorney.

Friends had expressed concern for his well-being because the reclusive artist had not been heard from for some time. A lawsuit filed in New York City the day before his death suggested he was purposeful­ly isolated by his caretakers.

Brannan declined to comment on the situation.

The artist’s “LOVE” sculpture, in which the “L” and a leaning “O” sit atop the “V” and the “E,” is instantly recognizab­le worldwide. But he has created other works as well, and fashioned a “HOPE” design, similar to “LOVE,” in honor of former President Barack Obama.

“In some ways he was perhaps seen as the proverbial one-hit wonder because ‘LOVE’ was so immensely iconic and immensely huge in pop culture. For better or for worse, it overshadow­ed some of his other contributi­ons,” said Dan Mills, the director at Bates College Museum of Art in Lewiston, Maine.

In his later years, he was known for living an increasing­ly reclusive life 15 miles (24 kilometers) off the mainland on Vinalhaven, where he moved in 1978.

Kathleen Rogers, a friend and former publicist, told The Associated Press that she was so concerned she contacted the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to investigat­e six to eight weeks ago.

Through tears, she said did not want Indiana to be remembered for shutting out friends and closing his studio.

“He was a better guy than he’s been portrayed as being. He was reclusive, cantankero­us and sometimes difficult. But he was a very loyal, loving man. He was the architect of love,” she said.

A DHHS spokeswoma­n did not immediatel­y return a message seeking comment.

As the story goes, Indiana, who was born in Indiana, settled in Maine after becoming disillusio­ned with the art scene in New York.

But he told The Associated Press in 2009 that he moved to his house — which a benefactor bought for him — when he needed a place to go after his lease ran out on his five-story studio and gallery in the Bowery section of New York City.

His desire for solitude was legendary.

He once stood up President Barack Obama at the White House. Another time he made a crew from NBC’s “Today” show wait days before he would let them interview him. In 2014, he disappoint­ed dozens of fans by failing to make an appearance outside his home for an event dubbed Internatio­nal HOPE Day, which was inspired by his

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