To Step Inside His Mind
“Immersive Van Gogh” is a 16,000 square foot installation on Pier 36, NYC.
A 40-minute loop of 400 animated Van Gogh images plays in three adjoining spaces--
a moving mashup reflected on broad walls, floors, and dazzling mirror sculptures.
Light bounces everywhere, including from visitors’ bodies and faces
Dark entry corridor, black shiny floors,
I’m handed a pillow, covered with a Van Gogh image,
I kneel in the first gallery.
A winged insect flies in, quivering alone on the tall wall,
followed by innumerable swarms fluttering high and low,
glittering on the mirror sculptures, buzzing on the black floor.
Van Gogh appears on top of them with candles in his hat and swats;
a shock of sunflowers takes over.
All surfaces disappear into sheer colour:
yellows, golds, tournesols, tournesols—the pure joy of sunflowers
growing and shrinking, assembling and disassembling.
Children run to catch the huge blooms, stamp them on the floor.
And the music changes: orchestral plant-climbing music
switches to Edith Piaf, her plaintiff vocals--
“Rien de rien, rien de rien. Non, je regrette rien.”
Am I dizzy?
Now we’re in sugar cane fields, triplets of rising harp notes,
Japanese figures on bridges, kimonos.
Nodding buds, bursting poppies. Two yellow butterflies
alight on fields of red against a swath of pale blue sky.
Van Gogh mutters, there is no blue without red and yellow,
I move to the second gallery.
The same loop of images plays again, yet I enter
at a moment of nuns singing dirges,
and in the third gallery, different moment in the loop,
peasants chat in patois.
Van Gogh’s self-portraits drop down the walls
at intervals, sometimes upside down,
his knowing eyes, his changing beard transforming everywhere.
A train chugs through the village,
people in the gallery echo clusters of folk in nearby wheat fields.
Visitors take photos, selfies, we’re all part of the scene.
Same scale, standing on the floor or toiling in the fields,
A curtain of black spinning Rorschach blotches pull all colour
to the floor. Now, moments of madness, light patches of lucidity.
Blue clouds go crimson, Vincent howls behind barred windows
while he paints version after version of Nuit Etoilée,
His final commentary, ultimate vision—a starry night roils
with melting aerolites, comets adrift.
His purple is heaven and hell.
Velvet violet-blue flowers snake
the walls, the floors, the mirrors—tongues languishing--
I drown in Irises.
Immersive Van Gogh, Vincent Van Gogh, Dutch, 1880-1890
(A 360-degree art installation, by Director Massimiliano Siccardi, Set Designer David Korins, Composer Luca Longobardi. Exhibition appearing in many cities nationwide 2021)
Lee Woodman is the winner of the 2020 William Meredith Prize for Poetry. Her essays and poems have been published in Tiferet Journal, Zócalo Public Square, Grey Sparrow Press, The Ekphrastic Review, vox poetica, The New Guard Review, The Concord Monitor, The Hill Rag, Naugatuck River Review, and The Broadkill Review. A Pushcart nominee, she received an Individual Poetry Fellowship from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities FY 2019 and FY 2020. Her poetry collection, Mindscapes, was published by Poets’ Choice Publishing on January 9, 2020, Homescapes was published on May 22, 2020 by Finishing Line Press, and Lifescapes was just published by Kelsay Books on June 1, 2021. Artscapes will come out from Shanti Arts in late 2021.
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