AUDIE CORNISH, host:
In the back pages of newspapers, alt weeklies, and of course, the online classified Craigslist, are the seeds of love stories better known as Missed Connections. The posts are a kind of Cupid's bow for people too busy or shy to say hello to someone who strikes their fancy.
In the city of New York, the subway is a common backdrop for these ads, so the New York Transit Museum is celebrating Valentine's Day with a party honoring those missed connections and the art they inspire.
One of the artists featured in the program is Sophie Blackall. She's in our New York bureau to talk more about her work. Hi, Sophie.
Ms. SOPHIE BLACKALL (Artist): Hi.
CORNISH: So, what made you come up with this idea of illustrating Missed Connection ads?
Ms. BLACKALL: Well, I illustrate children's books for the most part and I had long wanted to do something a little more grown-up. And then I found Missed Connections quite by chance, and the most incredible thing about them were they were infinite. You know, new messages were coming in faster than I could keep up with them.
CORNISH: We've got an example of an ad that you've actually illustrated. This wanted is a woman for a man - which in missed connections language you see a W, the number four and then an M.
Unidentified Woman: (Reading) Tree with legs, W4M, Prospect Park. Nice pants. I'd like to see more of you. By the way, your dog winked at me.
Ms. BLACKALL: This was about Christmastime and so it was a Christmas tree that - I was assuming anyway - the guy was carrying. And it's such a great image of somebody obscured by a tree, just with legs underneath. And the dog winking was the perfect touch.
CORNISH: Have you ever received any feedback from people whose ads you've illustrated?
Ms. BLACKALL: Yes, which is just the most extraordinary thing and the power of the Internet. One of my favorite pictures is called "We Shared a Bear Suit at an Apartment Party," which I just thought was brilliant. And how could you share a bear suit with somebody and not exchange any details? It seemed like such an intimate thing to do.
So, I drew this picture of the woman with the bear head on and the man in the rest of the body. And that made sense that they were two parts of a whole and yet they couldn't see each other because she was obscured by the head. The guy who wrote that message actually saw the illustration and sent me a photograph of himself in the bear suit at that party, which was so surreal.
CORNISH: Did it look anything like your illustration?
Ms. BLACKALL: No, and that's the arrogance of the artist. I sort of thought his was the made-up version; mine was clearly the real version. And his was a sort of yellow Winnie the Pooh head, whereas mine was more of a grizzly bear. But he never met the girl, sadly. She never wrote back to him.
CORNISH: Sophie Blackall is an artist living in Brooklyn, New York. Her forthcoming book from Workman Publishing is called "Missed Connections: Love Lost and Found." She joined us from our New York bureau. Sophie, thanks so much.
Ms. BLACKALL: Thanks for talking to me.
CORNISH: You can see some of Sophie Blackall's illustrations on our website, NPR.org.
This is NPR News.
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