If the painters—and the art critics—in this town gave a crap, we would be circling Lower Manhattan with placards decrying the abuse of our dear brother Vincent. Two separate infotainment companies are presenting “immersive” spectacles of his work on each side of the island.
I’m not going to either one, of course. Some things are sacred to me. And I am afraid I couldn’t unsee their impoverished images.
Why do they pick on VG like this? Because he reproduces so well. The intensity of his vision, the pure emotion that is contained in it: so much so that even a fraction of the information in the painting is still something to see. Even The Met sells Van Gogh scarves, cups and the worst thing: “museum-quality” reproductions.
No, the absolute worst was the plush Van Gogh toy with the removable ear.
No, the “museum quality” reproductions are the worst.
(see my review “My Ear Comes Off!”)
The digital machine can’t seem to create much on its own so it is used to strip-mine anything of value and grind it to dust.
“Strip-mining destroys landscapes, forests and wildlife habitats at the site of the mine when trees, plants, and topsoil are cleared from the mining area. This in turn leads to soil erosion and destruction of agricultural land. When rain washes the loosened top soil into streams, sediments pollute waterways.” –eNvironment
You may say that the digital copying, enlarging and “enhancement” of Starry Night didn’t harm the original. I say it does—because it harms our ability to see the painting—taking away the scale, the color, the sensual surface and what is so important in a Van Gogh —how clearly he shows how he made it—the intimate conversation he is asking us to take an active part in. Not to be immersed passively, but to immerse ourselves and then see the world differently.
The choice of a sunflower as a subject for painting is one of VG’s brilliant conceptual ideas. As a symbol, its meaning is faithfulness—in Roman myth it was Clyte, so in love with Apollo that she looked at him all day and was metamorphosed into a sunflower— which also tracks the sun. Van Gogh saw the geometry and painted the infinite variety—without any repetition—every leaf and petal is different—like God.
At one of these shows, viewers can make their own sunflowers out of some pre-cut paper parts and at that show or the other one, you can take a selfie with a wall of dimensional sunflowers that “the creatives” put together.
Another special offer—I have no idea if it costs extra—is that you can get your own special letter from Van Gogh.
Yesterday I sent you a telegram to ask you for another twenty francs. That’s all I’ll have to feed myself for the whole week, but at least I have my frames and a few stretching frames. Only for the next letter, it shouldn’t come later than Sunday, because the siege is hard, very hard, these days. But we’ll sit it out, and I feel quite calm in all this agitation that we’re going through.
Ever yours, Vincent” *
I’m not so concerned about all the money they are making and blah, blah, the poverty of VG. That’s life. We simply cannot recognize genius—because it’s something we haven’t seen before. But I can’t bear that the real meaning of Van Gogh’s work is completely subverted here. Van Gogh had a heartbreaking love for the world and the people in it. Can’t we try to see it that way too?
And for God’s sake, don’t take your children!
*(Letter 700 to Theo Van Gogh, Arles, Tuesday, 9 or Wednesday 10 1888 October)