What Language Is Spoken On This Road?

First the good news.

A good time was had by all at the art exhibition called Midsummer Light. It was presented by the Women In The Visual and Literary Arts. I really enjoyed being a part of this experience and exhibiting my photographs. If you did not get to the opening reception, the exhibition will remain up for your viewing pleasure until July 19th at the Christ Church Cathedral’s Cloister Gallery, 1117 Texas Avenue. The venue is open from 11 am to 2 pm Monday through Friday while Treebeards serves lunch.

In other news:

Sometimes I just have to laugh at myself. Sometimes I do things that just go a slight bit awry. Nothing huge. I’ve never killed anyone.….that I know about. If I did it was certainly a mistake. But sometimes all of the technology.….phones.….computers.….televisions.…..can just be a bit much.

For instance, let’s consider Amazon. I order things from Amazon. Mostly books, but sometimes other things. I have been buying things — especially books — all my life. Here is my most recent acquisition that I received on Tuesday. It is a book about Vincent Van Gogh.

First, I apologize for blogging one more time about Vincent. I know I have blogged about him quite a bit lately. However, it does involve my latest acquisition from Amazon and the reason for this blog will soon be made clear. Remember that patience is a virtue.

This book had been highly recommended to me. I was looking forward to receiving it. When I had it in my hot little hands, I sat down in my most comfy reading chair and opened the envelope. I liked the cover. I like a lot of Vincent’s self portraits. He did quite a few of them. I sat back and began to open the book ready to learn more about this artist.

As soon as I open the book I see another self portrait. I am happy. I am relaxed. It still looks like a really nice book doesn’t it? Look closely. Closer. Do you notice anything? At this point I was still happy and relaxed. I hadn’t noticed anything. But wait!

I turned a few more pages and began reading the content. Here is the content that talks about the painting of the potato eaters. I think that’s what it says. Yet, I don’t really know for sure, do I? Why don’t I know? Because I don’t read French! My book is printed in French. How did this happen?

I wasn’t looking for a French book. I spent 5 years studying Spanish. I have never spoken a word of French. Quickly I looked back at the confirmation I received from Amazon when I ordered this book. I look and look and keep looking. Finally down, down, down the email confirmation I go. I look very carefully at the very small print. Language: French.

EGAD! Lesson learned. I still like the pictures in this book. I will keep it and may use some of the photos for collage work. Who knows?

Maybe one day I’ll meet a new friend who reads French and likes books about Vincent Van Gogh.

I remain forever hopeful.

Until next week.….

On The Road With Vincent

Every morning this week I have found myself in very familiar surroundings. I am back at the Glassell School of Art. Sitting in the auditorium listening to Dr. Anna Tahinci talk about art while she shares a PowerPoint presentation.

The subject this time is the current exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston called Vincent Van Gogh: His Life in Art. I have strolled through the exhibition twice so far, but I knew I wanted to get more in depth with the subject.

Vincent Van Gogh, the person and the artist, has fascinated me for years. I remember the song, Vincent (Starry, starry night) by Don McLean that was popular back in 1971 (Yes, I am old enough to remember this. I was in Junior High School which was just the right time to sit in my room, playing records, and feeling dramatically impassioned in a way only possible for an impressionable teenager.)

I am now learning about the journey that Vincent took through his life and how that was reflected in his art. He started out learning about lines and drawing. Then when he started painting many of his works were similarly monochrome.

Gradually, working with color theory, Vincent’s paintings became more and more colorful. He dabbed some red next to a green background that stands out and continues to communicate to the viewer to this day. He painted a great deal with yellow. He even painted yellow on yellow which is no small trick. In several pictures he showed us his pipe and tobacco, and his hat. He even showed us a letter from his brother Theo. It is as if these still life paintings are a variation of the self portraits he also left for us. We can see what he thought of as important and how he saw himself.

Quite paradoxically, the brighter and more vivid the colors became in his paintings; the more Vincent struggled. It was while he was living in the now famous yellow house that he decorated with bright yellows, blues and oranges. This was the spot where he also quarreled with friends and cut off part of his ear. Still he showed us everything he had inside him by painting a self portrait while his ear was still wrapped in bandages.

Realism, Impressionism, Neo‐Impressionism, Impasto, and Pointillism are just a few words used to describe Vincent’s work. He only spent the last 10 years of his life as a painter, yet he completed approximately 2100 artworks. He was most prolific during the last two years of his life. He had so much to share and to show us in such a small amount of time.

As Don McLean sang in 1971:

Now I understand, what you tried to say to me, and how you suffered for your sanity, and how you tried to set them free. They would not listen, they did not know how. Perhaps they’ll listen now.

Until next week.….

Bedtime with My Cousin Vinny, Version 2.0

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.

Around me, I heard tears and sniffles. Another 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.

Off Road With Traditions

It started Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. Driving down the freeway, I had just left Starbucks and was heading home. There was a lot of traffic. I debated about running errands. I looked at the traffic again. Heck no. All errands would wait until next week.

It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Holiday traffic was growing by leaps and bounds. I don’t do holiday traffic. I went home.

As a RoadBroad, Thanksgiving is the time of year where I go “off road” until the holidays are over. Except for Halloween, I am not a big holiday person. As an adult I converted to Judaism, which means I no longer celebrate Christmas and my other holiday traditions have changed as well.

As you might remember from my blog last week, my Thanksgiving traditions are somewhat off the main road. I am not alone in tweaking the Thanksgiving theme. I took this picture when dear friend (DF) and I were driving to our Thanksgiving dinner at Kiran’s. These folks weren’t at a relatives house. They were standing in a long line waiting to get into Cleburne’s Cafeteria. Thankfully we had reservations where we were going.

We drove to our favorite Indian restaurant that prepared a trans‐cultural Thanksgiving dinner.  There were many traditional foods, but prepared in Indian style. There was turkey and dressing for the carnivores. I filled my plate with rice, yams, brussel sprouts, green beans, and carrots and a few things I did not recognize from childhood.

It’s not easy being a vegetarian at Thanksgiving. Once DF and I made a meal completely out of a variety of squashes. It was successful, but I prefer to let someone else do the cooking. Over the years we have managed to find a variety of restaurants that will accomodate vegetarian palates. However, Kiran’s is our favorite.

I also enjoyed a pumpkin martini. Was that traditional or off road? Who cares, it tasted really good.

After we completed our feast it was time to go to the movies. This year’s pick was At Eternity’s GateThis movie told the story of the last days of Vincent Van Gogh. Not exactly a cheerful movie, but what a fascinating character. As an added bonus there was a cameo appearance by Gauguin. If you are an art lover, then you don’t want to miss this one.

Tomorrow this RoadBroad will not be on the road. Let all of the shoppers enjoy the crowds and traffic. I plan on relaxing and reading a good book.