It’s always a somewhat unsettling transition after working on a series for a show. I like having a goal/deadline and an end of the road destination for my efforts. I can concentrate on producing. It makes everything seem more tangible and valid.
But afterwards. . . you’re back in the studio, often with your work sitting around you again, and you need to proceed. You need to pick up the thread and keep pulling on it, keep the momentum alive in some way. Many artists experience a letdown after putting a show together, and we all have our ways of coping with the transition. I think the quality that this reinforces in us is a kind of resilience. And persistence.
With experience, you learn there are ebbs and flows in the work itself; in how much attention it gains from the public. You see over time that your enthusiasm can dry out, or you begin to question yourself, or need to regroup. And then you pull out of it, get a fresh breath, get your footing again and move on from there.
Are some folks born with a “resilience gene”? The internal force that says, “nope, you’re not quitting buster!” If you were to walk through the exhibit up at the Denver Art Museum, called “Becoming Van Gogh”, you might start to wonder.
Aside from one or two pretty iconic paintings, or drawings, this was a walk through the individual effort it took to “become Van Gogh”, and one got the feeling that often he was urging himself on, without benefit of a peer group or mentor or any real teacher. There was some packaged drawing course, and looking at what other artists were up to… but he seemed determined to teach himself how to draw and use color. And, keep in mind that all this took place over a mere span of ten years! By the last rooms of the exhibit, I turned the corner and I swear it looked like the paintings were glowing on the wall. The color was so fresh and vibrant, it looked like it was lit from within. These were not paintings where every stroke was second guessed- but a series of confident strokes of beautiful color, laid on canvas without reworking and rethinking. Brush strokes that carved away at the image, changing direction and mass with each area, or event.
I grabbed a shot of this label on this painting before the nice guard came over and told me “no photography” of any kind.
It’s another way of saying “painting well is the best revenge”. Almost like he was aware on some level that it would be decades (if ever) before his uniqueness as a painter would be truly seen and appreciated. But I think he reached a kind of transcendence in the work just the same.
Not only does the dogged persistence of Vincent confront you from every wall, but the very act of putting up this show is a testament to the same human quality. The curator Timothy Standring spent about 7 years courting and cajoling 40 collectors and museums in order to gather the components of this fascinating show. You can read more about it here.
So congratulations to our local gem of a museum, even though the slanty walls still bug me and seem to clamor for more attention than is good for the display of works of art. I almost blew this one off and am glad I didn’t. Some painters remind you on a visceral level how important it is to be persistent.