NOTE: Ghost fingers posted a rough draft of this blog post last night. It’s been replaced with this final version. Enjoy!
Vincent Van Gogh always seemed a nut case.
You don’t chop off an ear if you’re sane.
But I met the artist this week—via his letters, etchings, sketches, and paintings—and realized he’s my long-lost cousin. What else do you call someone with whom you share three great loves: books, shoes, and colors?
My personal trifecta grants Mr. Van Gogh an irreverent nickname: Vinny.
Isn’t that the gift we give family members?
Coincidence that the moniker matches Joe Pesci’s 1992 movie, My Cousin Vinny.
All this discovery unfolded at Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts (MFAH) and its fantabulous exhibit titled Vincent Van Gogh: His Life in Art. This one-city show runs through June 27th; attending is beyond worth-your-time. From Houston, the exhibit returns to its Amsterdam home.
Since childhood, I’ve visited countless museums and art galleries. All around the globe. This show was different.The day became profound. Art, when married with words, can do that.
My skin actually t‑r-e-m-b-l-e‑d when I viewed Vinny’s work. A first.
The floor-to-nearly-ceiling sketches stopped me in my shoes.
This image was drawn in the late 1800s. My mind struggled with its how-to. As in: how do you create something this large—on your hands and knees? Where do you find, in 1888, paper this big? How do you store it?
Questions raced through my mind. Then I saw the clogs.
I gasped. Something about the yellow background and the plain pair of shoes screamed strength, confidence, and power.
How could that be?
Vinny’s strong brushstrokes—around, over, and through the tightly-shaped shoes—transformed the leather into something more than a simple something you walk in.
Art critics disagree on Vinny’s intent with A Pair of Leather Clogs. They cite specific walks, spiritual wanderings, or life paths.
How much more RoadBroad can you get?
Perhaps Cousin Vinny was a RoadDude. He did live all over Europe.
In these clogs, I saw myself. These weren’t, after all, ordinary shoes. They were clogs, the only type of shoe I paint. See my February 18th post to refresh the hobby details.
No way am I suggesting that I reside in Mr. Van Gogh’s league. Instead, I believe there’s an artistic universality in painting shoes.
Call it magic juju. His painting offers a question, a reflecting point, ahead of any journey. The shoes beg you to ask, in advance: are you ready?
But how often do we consciously ask? Do we save the preparation for the bigger roads only? How about in the middle of the journey—do we consider our observations? After we leave the road, do we look back to ask: what did I learn?
Creation resides with the artist. Interpretation belongs to the observer. What freedom, for both!
Shoes, regardless of who paints — or walks in — them, offer preparation, experience, or wisdom. We choose our takeaway(s).
The exhibit ends with a delight-filled interactive play area.
When I spied Van Gogh’s Bedroom at Arles, I had to get between the sheets.
Cousin Vinny called me. Or, maybe, I’m half-crazy after all.