Monday, October 3, 2011


Vincent Van Gogh.  Artist.  Painter.

I love how this man took something relatively ordinary - painting - and made it into something totally his own.  His paintings are distinctively his.  They weren't like anything else at the time.  He created his own standard.

I'm sure that to a lot of folks at the time, what he painted must have seemed like nonsense.  After all, his brother - his best friend, his confidant, his provider - was an art dealer, and he had a hard time selling Van Gogh's art.  Van Gogh had connections, and was clearly talented, but at the time it didn't matter.  What he painted wasn't what people wanted.

Now, we stand back and look at his paintings in awe, drawn in by the vibrancy of his gloppy colors, drawn in by that horizon that was always, always at eye level.  But back then, Van Gogh was just some poor, crazy dude who painted because his passion demanded he do it.  Very few folks thought very much of him.

Van Gogh's story always makes me a little sad.  Not simply because it's tragic - which, of course, it is; but because we live in a world where popular art (and I think this is historically true, not just a modern day plague) is mostly a process of Copy+small_variation.  Copy+small_ _variation.  Copy+small_ _ _variation.  Don't get me wrong - I don't think that's all bad, by any stretch.  It's just that it's so rare to see an artist take a medium - painting, sculpture, music, whatever - and do something so radically different with it that it's hard to describe.

And maybe that's a good thing.  Maybe we can appreciate those few and far between better because that's what they are.  Few, and far between.

Last weekend, the hubster went to Omaha to visit his brother.  I think of his bro as something akin to a YouTube spiritual guide.  He's always got his finger on the pulse of something cool.  Funny, serious, astounding, whatever.  We never come away from a trip up there without a good YouTube video in our back pocket.

Last night, after the kids were in bed (oh, those blessed couple of hours when the offspring are asleep and we're NOT), Thomas pulled YouTube up on the ol' Apple TV, and blew my mind with a band (band?  I have no idea if that's the right word for it) called Listener.  I'd never seen/heard anything like it.  They take a couple basic things - music, poetry - and make them all their own.  A man speaking, shouting, so musically, so beautifully, that you can't help but stop and listen.  It's powerful, but I can't describe to you why, exactly.  It's beautiful, but it's not.  If I had to put it into a genre, I'd be screwed.  iTunes puts them in Rock, but I think that's probably just because where the hell else would they put them?

I'm probably late to the game with Listener, but holy cow, better late than never.  This is good stuff, you guys.  And good stuff is meant to be shared.  So here are two videos for you to enjoy.  They're the same song - one performed live, one not.  If you like them, go find them on iTunes.  Support the arts and the artists you love.  And revel a little in a bit of art that marches to the beat of its own drum.


Sonia Marsh/Gutsy Living said...

Vincent Van Gogh lived where my Father grew up in Auvers-sur-Oise so I feel connected.

Myndi Shafer said...

Very cool, Sonia! My father grew up where I grew up - Kansas. So I feel connected to: wheat fields and cows. :)