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They love it. They love it not

Of the two camps of thought on display at the Ink and Pistons gallery's Valentine's Day-themed art show — works depicting love as either sweet or sour — Tim Palmer's "Dear John" painting falls decidedly in the latter category.

Palmer's acrylic- and spray-paint-on-board is a blood-soaked dispatch to the lovelorn, depicting a pair of human skulls arranged to resemble a beet-red heart, inspired by, he says, that inescapable sensation of being "kicked to the curb" in a "Dear John" breakup letter. One of the red skulls, no doubt, has its gaze focused somewhere off the canvas, perhaps a hopeful …

"It's not hopeful at all," the Boynton Beach painter says. "It's a bloody, discarded heart, in the moment when it's ripped out and thrown against a wall. My thought process was that it belonged to some soldier serving overseas, hanging onto a picture of his girl, giving him hope, and then receiving that letter. Most people have gone into adulthood having had their heart broken. I include myself in that group."

Palmer's anti-Valentine's Day artwork may be a bummer, but it's among good company in "Sweet and Sour: My Bloody Valentine," the West Palm Beach gallery's newest, if belated, exhibit about America's only Hallmark-invented holiday. The show's curator, Amanda Linton, says the display of 30 works from as many artists both celebrates and scorns Valentine's Day and its twee trappings of love.

"You either love or hate the holiday, but there's a good mix of cheeky pieces with a darker message and images of supercute, fluffy, sweet things," says Linton, who counts only "positive" examples of Valentine's Day since her marriage to husband JR, a tattoo artist and co-founder of Ink and Pistons. "I always told JR that I didn't want a diamond, so he commissioned an artist to do a painting of me, and the tattoo on my character's arm said, 'Marry Me.' "

The exhibit, running through April 2, also has works from Erika Taguchi-Newton, Dave Berns and Polly Peachums, whose unsubtle painting of a cake bearing the words "Eat Me" should leave little doubt about her V-Day sentiments. Cary Polkovitz's canvas tri-panel "Cutting," is a morose portrait of a nude woman with a razor blade, who carves a heart into her chest and the word "love" into her forearm, respectively.

Alexis Colbert left her "She Binds Up the Broken Heart" portrait as an ambiguous image, depicting a giraffe in a nurse's uniform stitching together a torn heart. She says the watercolor- and ink-on-wood was inspired by the ease at which people receive broken hearts, and by the artist's imminent move to Tennessee to live on an animal farm.

"I'm moving somewhere more rural, to a town outside Nashville, where it's slower paced. It's my dream to own land and raise goats," says Colbert, currently of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. "But I also wanted to convey how easy it is to feel rejected, and to be nursed back to life. And what's more nurturing than a nurse who's a giraffe?"

Sweet and Sour: My Bloody Valentine

When: Feb. 23-April 2 (opening reception 7-11 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23)

Where: Ink and Pistons Tattoo Shop and Slushbox Art Gallery, 2716 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach

Cost: Free

Contact: 561-832-4655 or

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