Vincent's Yellow

a[n] [auto]biography and a love story.

The Myth

In the beginning, I avoided the “Van Go” aspect to this project right and left, I instead dug for the truth, and the truth could only be found in his letters, in his paintings, in history… Or so I thought.

But the commodification, the misinterpretation, the drama, the mythology of Van Gogh is all important, and I have eventually come to embrace it. For Vincent van Gogh created one enormous thing without a drop of intention, and that is his Myth. Van Gogh is perhaps a name with as many resonances as Ghandi, probably less than Hitler, but certainly more than FDR or Genghis Khan (and I refer to the resonances with the general population… I finally met someone who did not know who Vincent van Gogh was this past week and it about knocked my socks off). What Vincent did is in no way comparable to what these other men did, but his actions, his life, his influence has reached far and wide like a pebble’s ripple in a pool. Except that those ripples gained a force of their own, and continue to roar across cultural oceans.

What I love to look at now are the many iterations, the many re-fashionings and re-imaginings of Vincent/Van Go, and smile at the infinitely deep well of inspiration this man has become. He has become much greater than he ever could have imagined – he is sometimes so immense I wonder if I will ever know him all. As I once wrote in my journal: His life was the birth of a universe in an egg shell. I still believe that whole heartedly.

From Halloween costumes (this one is particularly well done)

Thanks to

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to NASA comparing the illumination of interstellar dust around this star to one of his paintings

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Thanks to

to hotel suites modeled after his paintings

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to credit cards

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to shoes with quotes from his letters on them,

and cartoons,

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and dolls with removable ears

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or removable heads

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to books (an Amazon search reveals almost 2,000) and movies (Amazon shows 22 results for movies and television, but I’m sure there are more out there that one cannot buy) and short films ranging from the more realist Vincent’s Final Moments to the surrealist Vincent and Absinthe

to the iPhone application Yours, Vincent which puts his letters and sketches at your fingertips

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to University investigations into which star Vincent painted in The White House at Night, 1890

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(it was Venus, and it was precisely in that spot the night he painted it, by the way)

to songs, both the lesser known and the famous —

It becomes irrefutable that Vincent is a universe, a mountain worth climbing and full of ever-branching caverns. I am lucky enough to consider myself an explorer of all things that trace their root to him. The portrayals of this man and his work in all its iterations are not necessarily historically accurate, but they reflect what Vincent van Gogh truly means to those that reflect him back at the world and inevitably spread his words, his paintings, his life to those that did not know him at all.

In this way, Vincent van Gogh is still very much alive to me. He is an idea, a spirit that is still developing, still changing, still reaching out…

Mon, February 8 2010 » Artists Inspired by Vincent, Popular Culture, Research

4 Responses

  1. Timmy Caldwell February 8 2010 @ 17:53

    Thank you. This is one my very, very favorite of your entries. It glides along effortlessly. By showing the evidence of how this one remarkable artist left a very wide impact on our world, you demonstrate (I think) that it takes only one person to reach millions.* His determination in the face of tremendous discouragement should be a model to any of us not to quit, not to give up.

    *I do not mean to ignore the importance of Theo and especially Jo after V’s death, but if Vincent had chosen to give up at any time he ran into a wall (and walls there were many), there would have been no legacy to defend.

  2. John A. Karr February 9 2010 @ 13:06

    After many years as a Van Gogh enthusiast, it is still difficult to square the post-mortem success with the daily poverty of Vincent’s life, and more, the lack of acceptance from the public at large. If he had sold just enough for reasurrance purposes — perhaps one painting every other month or so — he might never have squeezed the trigger.

  3. Josie February 14 2010 @ 01:23

    You met an alien this week? Can’t think who else in the Western world wouldn’t know who VvG is!

  4. Teresa February 19 2010 @ 22:59

    Thanks for the comments you guys and I’m sorry it took me so long to get back to you, I was out of town and wanted to take the time to respond properly.

    Tim – I couldn’t agree more. With pretty much everything you said. Except for the part about this being a great entry. To that I just say, thanks! I was thinking about it and gathering my evidence for some time. :)

    John, I agree that if he had had just a little more hope on the horizon he might have lived longer. I don’t think his success makes up for or cancels out the terrible way he lived, but it shows me that his hardship was in fact worth the effort. When I saw that Starry Night was a standard screen lock on iPhones, I began to believe that his images will only die with all of humanity. And that’s pretty incredible.

    Always very interesting to me though is that he *was* starting to get attention in the last six months of his life or so, but was very averse to getting any attention. To the point of writing critics begging them NOT to write about him. You probably already know this, but it sometimes make me wonder if any more attention really would’ve helped him. Sometimes I think it might have driven him to suicide even earlier. (Of course a lack of attention and a regular income would have been ideal, but I wonder how possible that could have been with how revolutionary his style was.) Since you are a fellow Van Gogh enthusiast, I’d love to know your thoughts.

    And Josie — yes, I thought for a minute it was an alien. But it just turned out to be my coworker. After a few prompts and incredulous looks he said he knew who I meant. :)

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