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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Moonlight Madness May 23,2010

It was cold, with blue light. The shadows were dark. Dead Quiet.

I chose this subject to paint because the gates at the Asylum were locked; (there was no getting back in).

I was on the outside looking in.

Oh, there was activity though. The lights were on, inside the room with baredwindows.Shadows would pass across the windows from time to time. The warm orange interior light in contrast with the blue moonlight added to the theme of madness.

It was during the silence I thought I heard voices wafting in the fog coming across the field next to me, where the rubble of Roman ruins lay. It was a good wine Eringer and I shared earlier that evening. (It must have had an affect on my auditory senses).

Because of the overall blue moonlight, I toned the board red so as to make a violet tonal harmony from a distance.

My thoughts: This is the same direction of sky that Van Gogh saw out of his cell window every night. Because the moon was so bright there were hardly any stars about, but there were a few; enough to put in to my painting.

I finished the painting, snapped a photo, then made my way across the field towards the entry gate to the asylum to do my second painting when a car approached; coming down the long, one hundred yard driveway in the darkness, I Popped out from the shrubs, in front of the car, near the Asylum gate and the driver slammed on his brakes, (in dramatic fashion), put the car in reverse, and quickly backed away in reverse, all the way back to the main road leading to St. Remy.

Guess I scared him. (So what if I was dressed in all black winter gear with a Russian Winter hat with flashlight attached!). Outside the walls of the Asylum, I wasn't lurking, I was working!

Silent Night, St. Paul des Maison
14x11, oil/board
collection of Robert Eringer

An Ear in Provence: Listening to the French (Tachydidaxy Travelogue) by Robert Eringer and James Harper (Hardcover - Nov. 2003)

For further reading:

Night of Antiquity, May 22, 2010

After an incredible dinner with Eringer at a restaurant (with a Micheline rating!!). Leaving Eringer behind to digest his Foie Gras, and literally get haunted in his hotel room, I drove the car back over the hill to haunt Van Gogh at the Asylum of St Paul des Maison. It was around 730 pm and the moon was fairly high in the sky. It was dark outside, with snow on the ground. The air was cold and still, and deadly silent. I was dressed in my heavy down jacket and Russian winter hat; (all my sub freezing gear from my Icelandic trip).

I parked outside the walls of the Asylum and walked around the neighboring moonlit fields, filled with Ancient Roman Ruins; a Romanesque Tower, and an Arc de Triumph. It was kinda spooky walking around these ruins by myself; which were in incredible condition for being almost 2000 years old.

I snapped a photo of them holding my camera's shutter open for about 15 seconds, then set up my easel and began to paint my first of two paintings; a 14x10 painting of a moonlit Asylum wall. Standing in snow for an hour and a half, the silence was deafening. I swore I could hear voices coming from the empty fields off to my right.

What were they saying? Better yet, what did they want me to hear?

Tule fog started creeping in adding a wee bit of mystery to the experience. It's O.K. I seem to paint better when I am on edge; in a heightened state of awareness...

Roman Antiquity-St. Remy
Night Photography by T. Van Stein
Winter 2003

An Ear in Provence: Listening to the French (Tachydidaxy Travelogue) by Robert Eringer and James Harper (Hardcover - Nov. 2003)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Night of a Van Gogh Moon. May 21, 2010

Eringer and I escaped the Asylum and drove to Les Baux, a thirty minute meander to the South of St. Remy. In my mind I knew I had come all this way, to paint Nocturnes in the place where "Starry Night" was created. I had to do this in order to pay homage to the Master, to connect with his spirit in some way. It was an opportunity I was not going to let go to waste.

As we made our way into the Valley of Les Baux the Moon that would later accompany me that night, began to rise to the East. I quickly grabbed my poshade box, (easel), and set up to capture the moon as it rose.

This was a proud moment; as I was motivated and inspired to just be in the neighborhood Van Gogh once witnessed. My thoughts: this was the same moon face which has risen every month since the dawn of Man. Only this time I would paint it with a different committent; to the concept of creativity and madness.

When I had finished, I turned around and grafitteed the stone road abuttment with my Anchor symbol, TVS.

I knew it was a stretch for me to come all this way with a family back home. It was going to be even more of a stretch for me to go back out that night, alone, and paint outside the walls of Van Gogh's Asylum.

Did I have the Cahones?

Moonrise, Les Baux France,
5x7, oil/panel
Collection of Robert Eringer

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Huge Presence in a Small Bed. May 20, 2010

Well, this was Van Gogh's bedroom. This was Van Gogh's Bed. What the hell was going through his head?

I hopped in his bed and put my feet up. Dang, short! No room to stretch! He must have been 5'2, or else he'd be forced to sleep in the fetal position for eighteen months.

My Artist Mentor, Dan McCaw use to say, "You should be able to paint inside a phone booth- if you have to".

Well, these confined quarters would have definitely tested my claustrophobic fears.

Lying there in Van Gogh's bed, I was all ears...

Photo by Robert Eringer

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Room with a View May, 19, 2010

I immediately recognized some of the landscapes Van Gogh had painted right from this window. The Asylum walls are still present the way they appeared one hundred and twenty two years ago. (I've included one here).

It's fascinating to observe the license Van Gogh would take with his composition and placement of elements within the design of the painting; what he chose to edit, enhance, move, delete, etc. These bars couldn't restrain the genius mind, nor restrict him in his quest for freedom of expression.

For a year and a half he stood here looking out from these barred windows, with plenty of time to contemplate and imagine. This was his space: to live, eat, breath, create. His space to seek inspiration, and dream.

He'd paint all day, until exhausted, then he'd yearn for a peaceful, silent night. He'd pass the evening hours listening to the sounds of fellow inmates howling at the moon, (or the purely make believe). I'm sure that to Van Gogh, sleep, was a luxury.

For Van Gogh, this was the edge; and it was sharper than the blade he used to mutilate himself.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mental, Re: Temptation. May 18, 2010

So this was the room Van Gogh created some of his greatest masterpieces; especially the, "Starry Night". It was a mindful experience.

In my research I found Van Gogh was influenced by a painting called, the "Starry Night" by Millet. He was one of the great French Genre painters of the Mid 19th Century, whom Van Gogh appreciated. Millet's Starry Night was painted forty years before Van Gogh's post impressionist Masterpiece, RIGHT HERE-IN THIS ROOM!

I am certain, that when Van Gogh was locked away in here, this room was more like a real art studio, with paintings, easels, paints and canvas everywhere. Hey, but the "Doctors" saw that it was GOOD! It kept him happy!

Art Therapy was born!

When Vincent was in lock down, he wasn't allowed out at night. So all he could do is view the outdoor night sky through these barred windows, and work in the daytime from memory. I say this because he was considered mad. I doubt they allowed him his candles which would have allowed him to work at night cause remember, he was mentally unstable and probably wouldn't have been allowed to play with fire.

As I mentioned before, the waist high gate said "Keep Out" (to the voyers of the world), but from inside the room, in the space for the mentally disturbed, the sign was blank. Nobody was around except for Eringer and Me, so I quickly hopped the gate, and made myself at home...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mad House Art: May 16, 2010

Eringer and I made our way to St. Remy Where Van Gogh was intered in the Insane Asylum St. Paul de Maison. We wanted the tour.

It was a timeless tour. It is still an active Asylum which houses only Women on the brink, or those women who have gone over the edge. Fortunately for the inmates they run an Art Therapy program to help them process and purge their inner demons, and if possible, give them tools to step back from the edge.

Nothing has changed regarding the 19th Century Architecture of the place. One could sense the Angels present in the hallways, gardens, and enclosed rooms, or was this my active imagination playing tricks on me? This was the place the Master chose to go to get his head clear, and contemplate his one-half an ear!

On the outside it looked stark, spooky, Gothic; a perfect place for looneys. All that is missing today are the infrequent sounds of screaming; mad laughter, cries of agony. etc. Oh, I am sure they still exist, but visitors are kept well away from their origins.

My mind was at play. My question was, how was I going to paint this place where the Starry Night was born. I needed to see where He created this Masterpiece. Get a feel for his presence; get inside his mind.

My thoughts were: could I paint from the same vantage point as he. Could I come back tonight and paint from inside the Asylum? (Eringer suggested that in his opinion I would fit right in, and I should be committed!)

Tonight was the Full Moon. This was a place of Antiquity. I would search for that star in the night. I was committed to do this.

This image is from the Asylum Gift shop; painted by Corinne M., Proceeds go to fund her Therapy and Asylum upkeep.

It is a good thing.

Ascertaining the Asylum. May 17, 2010

Behind Bars, Eringer and I snooped around. We found a room with old bath tubs with wooden boards to lock a patient in place so only his head was sticking out at the time of the 'bath'. This was a kind of therapy, I guess, designed to shock the system of the patient, when either scalding hot or freezing cold water was poured into the bath, and the patient couldn't escape. It seemed like medievil torture to me, but what do I know...

We made out way up stairs to the room now famous as that which housed Vincent Van Gogh, during his mental health tenure at St. Paul des Maison. They have preserved his room; kept it tidy. There was a sign and waist high gate designed to keep the riff raff out, but I had to get in. I needed to see what he saw out his window; try to pick up on his vibe if I could.

I looked down at the "keep out" sign, then looked over the gate and noticed it didn't say anything on the back, so, I scaled the fence...

Photo: Eringer behind bars. St. Paul des Maison
Winter 2003