INGWI: The Price of Fame

Song of the Moment: 2Pac – Fame

I had this hook stuck in my head a while ago and it finally came back to me today. Pretty sure Wes introduced me to this one.

I never knew a lot about Vincent Van Gogh. To be honest, I still don’t. He’s always been the artist who didn’t get enough credit for his work while he was alive and he cut off his earlobe. That’s where my knowledge starts and ends.

I first became aware of the Immersive Van Gogh exhibit when a friend went to see it in Pittsburgh. I was taken with the size and scale Van Gogh’s work was being presented in; a welcome change from staring at a piece in an art gallery. When Angel asked me if I had any interest in going, I immediately replied that I was.

The day after Christmas we drove up to Pittsburgh. Located at the Lighthouse Artspace Pittsburgh, I knew that they chose the right venue for the exhibit. Now, I say this as someone who has never gotten to experience some of these cool art spaces that decorate major cities but if you were to imagine a dimly lit, large space that looks like it was made for expensive cocktails and mindless small talk, then you know what Lighthouse Artspace Pittsburgh looks like.

It’s been over a month though so I’m not going to give a blog-like play-by-play of the exhibit and day (or the fact that I discovered Retro Bowl that weekend. I will definitely be writing about that at some point). What I experienced emotionally wasn’t something I was prepared for.

The actual immersive experience is a 35 minute video projected all around a room the size of a tennis court you might find at your local gym. There were few seats so the girls and I found a space on the floor around the middle. On all four walls the video is shown at the same time. It’s a beautiful blending of Van Gogh’s work that’s accompanied by a more than willing soundtrack.

I didn’t pull out my phone; I’ve really tried to be better about being in the moment instead of taking pictures to repost on social media. I just took it all in. Lo and behold, I found myself getting emotional.

If you’ve listened to my podcast, you know it doesn’t take much (I once broke down hard over a Dwyane Wade retirement commercial). Again, it’s something I’ve embraced over the years. I’m a firm believer in feeling your feelings when they happen so if I get teary eyed at a car commercial, what’s the big deal? Now the next step in my emotional process is to figure out what’s triggering me.

I was in a room with a bunch of strangers, my wife, and my daughter, so it had to be the video. So I ran through a checklist: the time and effort it took to make the video (nah), the time and effort Van Gogh put into his work (kinda), the music (nah), the fact that Van Gogh’s work was being appreciated still this long after his passing (kinda), etc.

But it really didn’t take me that long to figure it out though. I lifted this from his Wikipedia article:

Van Gogh was commercially unsuccessful during his lifetime, and he was considered a madman and a failure. As he became famous only after his suicide, he came to be seen as a misunderstood genius in the public imagination.

This man never knew he made it.

You can read Wikipedia, you can read books that were written about him but one thing is for sure: no one appreciated his work while he was alive, as he sold only one painting before his death. And while it’s reported the president of France did see his work before then, Vincent still passed relatively penniless.

After the show, as I looked through the gift shop where some of Van Gogh’s most famous works were printed on masks, clothing, and jewelry, it was a jarring knock back to the capitalist world we live in. Here in 2021, Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night can be on your dog bowl and your leggings! When he painted what he saw out his asylum’s window, never in a million years could he imagine this scenario.

And when I thought about how Van Gogh lacked recognition for his genius while he was alive, it made me think of my own struggles with getting my work recognized, whether it be musically or with podcasting.

I’m by no means comparing myself to a genius painter but this thought is why I’m writing this so stick with me.

Eventually, I had to come to the conclusion that I make music, I write, and I podcast ultimately for my own enjoyment. I’m not built to pretend that one day I’ll be recognized for any of those things. It took me a long time to get here but it’s an understanding I can live with.

Van Gogh, while also wanting to be successful, was deeply affected by his mental health in a time when there was no real help for his issues. So while it can seem like his suicide was prompted by his not being famous, there were larger things at play that led to his death.

Getting to experience his art that day the way I did was very cool but it was catered to the same people who flock to the movies to see a dragon in Shang Chi:

“Look at the cool effects and pretty colors!”

I’m as guilty as anyone for this (and Shang Chi was dope) but the exhibit left me with more questions than answers about how the paintings that were digitally recreated came to be in the first place. Sure, there were your typical paragraphs you could read about each one but the whole thing felt like those first few minutes with a fresh piece of gum: amazing flavor to start but then you’re left chewing a lifeless husk.

It’s good that I had more questions about him and his work after, so I suppose the exhibit did it’s job in that way. But the lack of education that was replaced with gigantic visuals and a gift shop left me feeling cold.

And it really made me grateful that Van Gogh couldn’t see his art on a mouse pad. I don’t think he ever wanted that kind of recognition.

Item! The Rasslecast team pulled off Handsome Bane’s idea for Segment-Mania on the latest episode!

Item! I discussed why the OG Green Goblin is Spider-Man’s greatest enemy on last week’s episode of Hyphen Nation!

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