Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Starry, Starry Night

Right across from my desk in my writing room hangs a poster of Vincent Van Gogh's The Starry Night. Yeah, I thought it was called Starry Starry Night too, because of that Don McLean song in the 70's, although I prefer American Pie. :)

Van Gogh was a Dutch post-impressionist painter, and like most painters he didn't receive true recognition until after his death. He was only 37 when he took his own life. I'm head-over-heels in love with this work. I even have a pillow with the image on it that lights up the "stars" when you squeeze a button hidden inside the fabric.

When I need to get in the mood to write those dark, sexy stories this painting does it for me. There's something almost sinister about the tree in the foreground, twisting and dark, rising above the town behind it. It's a sleepy-looking town, with lights in the windows, as if people inside are curled up with a book or having quiet conversation, unaware of the chaos above them.

The largest circle of yellow in the upper right corner I always imagine represents the Sun, our own star, and Van Gogh chose to give it light in this painting even though it's clearly nighttime. Or, he might have meant for it to represent the moon. That dead orb about which countless poems and songs have been written, and to which ancient lore attributes great power and magic.

The swirls of color remind me of the Milky Way. It's hard to see this in our nighttime sky unless you live somewhere without interference from other lights, but once you see it you never forget it. I imagine Van Gogh did a fair amount of star gazing to come up with the inspiration for this beauty.

Lastly, I love the rolling hills behind the village, again depicting a peaceful countryside and quiet homes.

Talk to me. Tell me what you see when you gaze at this work.

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ja