Van Gogh and a Silver Heart
I’ve always felt a strong affinity for Van Gogh’s work. I had just turned 19 when I saw his original paintings – at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam – during a three month backpacking trip to Europe. I even named my son Arlan (he’s now “Arlo”) because the name reminded me of Arles where Van Gogh painted his sunflower paintings. When my family went to south of France in 2011 we visited many of the places Van Gogh painted including, Arles and St. Remy in Provence.
It was Van Gogh’s depth of feeling for everyday people and things, communicated through his paintings, that inspires me most. For example, his painting of the sower (he did about 30 sower paintings) isn’t simply a depiction of someone casting seed, it is an emotional account of his experiences of life. He wrote: “One does not expect to get from life what one has already learned it cannot give; rather, one begins to see more clearly that life is a kind of sowing time, and the harvest is not yet here.” (That proved to be an eerily prescient statement about his life).
On one especially hot day for April, we visited the asylum at St. Remy where Van Gogh was sent to recover from bouts of mental illness (perhaps a combo of bad food, caffeine, absinthe and a sensitive nature). The garden was still planted with rows of irises which looked like his paintings had come alive.
After viewing the tiny rustic space Van Gogh had roomed and taking in the exhibit of art work by asylum patients, I decided to walk the trail from the sanitarium into the town of Saint Remy, by myself. On the walk I was trying to imagine Van Gogh perhaps walking a similar route and seeing the same trees and hills in the distance. At one point I looked down and found a silver dime-machine ring with a big shiny heart on it. It fit my finger. I put it in my pocket and now keep it on my studio shelf as a reminder of Van Gogh; an artist with an unfailing ability to put his heart into his work.
Image: VanGogh and I in Saint Remy