Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Happy Birthday Mr. Van Gogh

The image above was taken of Vincent Van Gogh when he was 13. Today is his birthday and he was born in 1853. The image itself is from the wikimedia commons, it is in the public domain by U.S. copyright laws.

Below is a short story originally copyrighted, Ann-Marie Stillion, 2004 and later revised as late as 2010. It is a story of my personal relationship to Van Gogh. I often think of him and was reminded the year I wrote this that he foresaw his own celebrity in his writings, that he would be famous and successful long after his death. In 2004 there was a big exhibit of his work at the Seattle Art Museum and his images hung from light poles all over town. Of course, his work can be found throughout the world now. From notebooks to the face of credit cards.

Today, I went looking for an image of him and found this photograph on wikipedia. So much is visible in his young face and so much is different from his own, more mature paintings of himself.

Here is my story of the artist.

The man who wanted to be everywhere
--for Mr. Van Gogh

One day he was allowed outside the asylum. The long cool autumn afternoons in the olive groves added to his gathering madness. He watched intensely as the gray sand swirled into wild waves under his feet like a river escaping its bed. His thoughts began to appear as a vehicle of travel.

Horizons of gold kept him awake, even as the desire for sleep crushed every thought. What appeared erratic to the friends and the medical assistants sent to save him was the effect of the effort it took to align his imagination. He had decided to thrust himself into time.

He knew he must first witness the death of all his cellular life might offer. This almost kept him from his task.

The warmth of another’s touch and that of his own body sliced away for an eternity—this would go first he knew. He stood at the doorway of his dreams without entering and practiced silence.

Eternity had called to him since he first stared up into the alcove of the church in his childhood. Curves of light, glass, incense and the frozen tears of captive saints spoke to him alone he recalled thinking. He marveled at how color and prayer bound him to heaven with so little effort on his part.

His first steps had naturally been religious. But speaking over the heads of sinners deepened his sorrow until it bent in two completely perfect spheres of light. Then he began to paint.

Existing forever is what he meant to do from the first. He painted himself into time for no other reason than he wanted to see what tied each life to the earth. From that long distance it might make sense he told himself.

Now night throws itself over a dark street in Paris and the lovers will never kiss. Strangers glide the uneven cobblestone and never stumble, nor will they meet.  The cobalt black cape of flickering starlight melts into the alchemy of fate and fortune. Someone is coming now and someone will soon leave.

by Ann-Marie Stillion, 5.31.04, revised 8.16.04, 1.26.10. All rights reserved.

For inquiries regarding republishing, please contact the writer annmarie@arttrek.com.


Little Black Dress said...

Beautiful and mysterious.

We should go to Paris again.

Don Gray said...

You do everything well, Ann-Marie. This story is luminous and poetic.

Frank Zweegers said...

Nice interpration of the life of van Gogh :) He was indeed a misterius artist and a damn good one! Thanks for sharing.