"You can't force yourself to overlook something that goes against your principles, and you can't change your experiences to fit someone else's life." -- Stephen Mack Jones, "Lives Laid Away"

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Starry Starry Night

      My sister was visiting New York City, so B and I went up to see her one day. We drove from Bucks County to Jersey City, NJ, then took the ferry across the Hudson river to Battery Park (thus avoiding the Holland Tunnel and the impossibilities of parking in Manhattan).

View of the Freedom Tower from the ferry

     We stopped by the Irish Hunger Memorial, the Mysterious Bookstore, and later went to dinner at the Tribeca Grill (Robert DeNiro's restaurant with great ambience, outside seating and decent-but-not-great food). But the main event of the day was a visit to an exhibition called Van Gogh Immersive Experience, now showing in New York as well as other major cities from Boston to Seattle. It is one of the panoramic shows that comprises the "immersive Van Gogh craze sweeping America."

A projection of Van Gogh's hayfield

     There are no actual original Van Gogh paintings in the exhibition. Instead, we get to "meet the artist like never before." To begin with, reproductions of his paintings hang like windows in several rooms, one after the other. 

Cafe terrace at night

     The displays offer a sampling of his hundreds of paintings. But the focus is on his major works: hayfields, flowers, peasants and towns in the south of France in the 1880s. 

Van Gogh's sunflowers

   And then there's the star of the show: The Starry Night. 

Close-up of Starry Night

   The experience culminates in a large auditorium-size room with a light-and-sound show that brings his paintings to life. Images are projected onto the walls. They fade and merge into one another. Trains move and blow off steam. Boats sail along the river. Petals float down off the trees.

Van Gogh self-portrait

     The show also brings Van Gogh to life as a person -- his early days as an art dealer, then discovering his talent, moving to Arles, descending into madness. Apparently, Van Gogh was somewhat color blind which explains in part his use of vibrant colors. He painted what he saw -- but his reality comes across to us as bold and bright and almost other-worldly. 

Self-portrait with bandaged ear

     He famously cut off part of his ear after a feud with his friend and fellow artist Paul Gaugin. Van Gogh eventually committed himself to a mental facility, as he alternated between periods of near-catatonic depression and manic periods of painting. 

The Freedom Tower, from the ferry ride home

   Van Gogh died a pauper in 1889 at the age of 37. He reportedly sold only one painting during his lifetime. But today the few paintings in private hands sell for tens of millions of dollars, while most of his work hangs in museums. And now we can see his tortured genius splashed across spacious arenas around the country, bringing his larger-than-life talent to the large screen.


Arkansas Patti said...

That display sounds amazing. I never was a real fan of Van Gogh's work but was really surprised to learn that he only sold one painting in his lifetime. Astonishing.

ApacheDug said...

Tom, how cool that you got to see this--I've heard about this "immersive experience" of Van Gogh's life & works, it's also here in Pittsburgh. Now I'm tempted to ask a friend if they'd like to go. Tickets are $50.00 each, ouch!

Tabor said...

We went to this experience up in Washington DC. I liked it but did not find it as amazing as I hoped I would. They were good about making everyone COVID safe.

Miss Merry said...

Two of my adult children went to the Van Gogh event. They could not speak highly enough of the experience. We still aren't traveling much, if at all, due to high covid numbers and lack of vaccination in our area. They went to the event in Cleveland and said everyone had to pre-purchase tickets and each group was put 6' feet apart from the others. I would have felt safe.

Tom said...

Doug -- Really? I didn't know. My sister bought the tickets. I thought they were, like 20 or 25. I guess I owe her a big thank you! Yes, our viewing felt safe as well -- timed admission to keep down the crowd, vaccination card required, and everyone wore a mask.

Meryl Baer said...

Heard a lot about the show, but haven't made it yet. On my list!

Rita said...

Thanks for the report. It sounds like a great exhibit. In the Seattle area, we've had two Van Gogh immersion exhibits. One apparently, is or was sketchy.

Janis @ RetirementallyChallenged said...

We have tickets for the event in San Diego in January. I have heard nothing but wonderful things about it.

Nancy Coiner said...

I've wondered what that would be like! How cool that you got a chance to experience it. My stepson and his wife took their kids to an amazing immersive experience in Tokyo (he's stationed in Japan), and they all loved it.

gigi-hawaii said...

This is a great post, as I am an art collector myself. I love van Gogh's work, but his life was such a tragedy.

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Jennifer (UnfoldAndBegin) said...

I enjoyed an immersive Van Gogh down in St. Petersburg. We didn't go through his individual paintings or life story but the immersive part with the paintings being projected on the wall. It had the effect of making you feel as if you were in the paintings.

Rebecca Olkowski said...

I just did the Van Gogh Immersive here in Los Angeles. It was a trip. There are several others coming up. I also went and saw some of his paintings at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena recently.

Diane Stringam Tolley said...

It's on here in Edmonton! Thiis was the last little nudge I needed to get me to go!

Carol Cassara said...

We saw it a couple weeks ago. It was quite interesting! been lucky enough to see the originals in museums and they are incredible.

Wisewebwoman said...

I've seen some of his work and it never fails to enrapture me. I could spend hours with just one piece.


Kay said...

Wow! Looks like you went to see the same show we did. We've been to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam twice so knew most of his life. He was lucky to have a brother so devoted to him, but yes... what a sad, sad life. I've always been moved by the emotion and colors in all his paintings.

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