Bread is given out for free by the checkout counter at this thrift store in the shadow of the capitol dome in Lansing. Need exists everywhere I go on missions to rescue art. VanGogh lived in poverty most of his early life. He went about the countryside of Europe in disheveled clothes and hair. He probably would have shopped in this thrift store if he were painting in Lansing today. Heh, maybe that young man looking at a jaunty hat was Vincent himself?
It is no wonder most customers don’t look at the art along the back wall. They need basics and don’t perceive art as necessary. Yet in this need, art is essential. The aesthetic mood that good art creates in us allows us to see the world as floating in something beautiful. If VanGogh was indeed shopping for that jaunty hat, he would have felt his hunger and felt the pain of his hungersecurely held in beauty.
VanGogh was infamous for working in a frenzy of speeding paint brushes, yet he reminded us: “If people say that this painting was done too hastily . . . I reply that they looked at it too hastily.” The same is true of this thrift store; more was there than we see right away. The first time through the shelves, I said to myself “old junk, old junk, old junk”. But the second time through let me find this beautiful “Vase with Irises”.
VanGogh pushed himself brutally to achieve great color in his work. At one point he ate nothing, only imbibing alcohol, coffee, and cigarette smoke. In reply to his friends and family’s pleading with him to take care of himself, he said, with his eyes on fire: “yes, but it is worth it to achieve such a beautiful blue!” VanGogh ruined his body in order to keep his frenzy alive. We can see the results in the iris flowers of this print.
Late in life, Vincent cut off his own ear as sacrifice he had to offer to be a great artist. He forgot his own body is also securely held in beauty. His own body he made ugly.
At the very end, VanGogh committed suicide. He made a grand mistake. He foolishly believed that he had to pay somehow to produce good art.