Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Van Gogh - Wheatfields
Originally uploaded by m.Lee
Somebody on Etsy yesterday pointed out that the BBC series from last year The Power of Art will start airing on PBS starting last night. Of course I immediatly Tivoed it, I have been wanting to see this series badly for many months now. As Jon puts it this kind of thing is like porn for me. It not only appeals to me as an artist but it brings out the art history buff in me. My minor is in art history. At one point I even considered going into the art history field but I decided that acedemia would not make me happy like making art does.

Last night two epsidoes aired back to back, first one on Van Gogh followed by one about Picasso. I haven't watched the Picasso episode yet.

I've always loved and felt an emotional connection not just with Van Gogh's work but with what I read about him as a person. In many ways I identify with him, minus the whole genius part unfortunatly. When I was fourteen years old these friends of my father's much hated girlfriend visited us from Canada. I couldn't stand my father's girlfriend but her friend's were interesting, loved art and were very nice to me. They even gave me this hardcover three volume set all about Van Gogh. It contains everything he ever did along with tons of information about him and his life. I still have it and bring it out to look at from time to time. I remember going through it and just being drawn in by all the images and what I was reading about this man. Of course I already was pretty familiar with this artist given that he is one of the most famous artists of all time. But I had never seen him in such debth before. Watching the show last night brought back the very same feelings in me.

There is no doubt in my mind that Van Gogh wasn't bipolar. Everything I have seen and read about him from accounts to his actual letters just screams it. And it scares me, saddens me and helps me realize just how lucky I am. Without treatment, understanding and medication bipolar disorder is extremly damaging and often fatal. I could totally see myself dying from it eventually if I didn't have what medicine offers me today. A lot of people romanticize bipolar disorder and depression in general thinking that these bouts are what cause such creativity. Most depressed people I have talked to about it as well as my own experience leads me to believe it is the exact opposite of that. When depressed creativity is gone and when manic control is so far gone that the energy feels more useless than anything. Just like how the documentary described how Van Gogh would paint to stave off the episodes I have found the same to be true. It is the normal periods, or the periods with just a tiny bit of hypomania that the super productive creativity happens. But people today he did not have access to proper treatment so his episodes got worse and worse until eventually leading to his death.

Now it is time for me to finish drinking my little pot of irish breakfast tea and do some drawning and carving. I've been carving little blocks for art cards since last night after I thought about how I haven't done a new design for an art card in ages. Even the newer cards were made with older blocks. I desperately need some totally fresh work and starting small has proven to be the best way for me to break out of a slump.

I hope everybody has a gorgeous Tuesday.


stilettoheights said...

this was a wonderful thing for me to read today....it's funny (and sad) you are right most people think of certain mental illnesses as being such wonderful tools for an artist...they think bipolar and then think of Jack Keroac writing On The Road in one long manic high....

I think you are very strong and very brave to be as open as you are.


m.Lee said...

If you get PBS you really should check out this series. They really tackled the whole Van Gogh as a mad genius assumption. He did have mad moments and he was a genius but probably not at the same time! It was the moments where he had the greatest clarity and lucidity that he created his masterpieces.

They are also going to do one on Rothko! I am so excited!