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Feature: VAN GOGH ALIVE at Stalight Theatre

There are somewhat north of 1000 van Gogh paintings still existent and are among the most valuable in the art world.

Feature: VAN GOGH ALIVE at Stalight Theatre
Vincent "the red haired madman" as a projection. Photo by Al Portner

Imagine, if you can, the ability to see beyond the strict confines of a framed piece of art. "Van Gogh Alive," a joint project of Starlight Theatre and the Nelson Atkins Art Museum, offers visitors a total immersion into Vincent's familiar, Post-Impressionist vision by way of massive, all enveloping, thirty ft. tall projections, backed by a carefully selected musical score, and the specter of the artist's own words culled from hundreds of letters written in his final years.

It is as if the viewer is allowed intimate access into the mind of this troubled genius as he might have experienced the subjects of his art before committing the first swirling, vibrant brushstroke of thick, vibrant color ever approached canvas on the artist's easel.

Feature: VAN GOGH ALIVE at Stalight Theatre
Vincent Quote: Photo by Al Portner

While we can never fully know the mind of another, one wonders if Van Gogh himself might have fully embraced this twenty-first century rendering of his nineteenth century art. The artist might well be astonished at the scale and technology now possible a century and a quarter after his passing from a suspected self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.

Vincent Willem van Gogh was born the oldest surviving son of a Dutch Reformed minister Theo van Gogh in Groot-Zundert, Netherlands in 1853. The van Goghs were an upper-middle class family deeply embroiled in the art world. Vincent was named for his Grandfather, a prominent art dealer. Three of Grandfather Vincent's sons followed him into art dealership. An earlier Vincent had been a well-known sculptor.

Young Vincent showed both an early aptitude for drawing and an interest in the family business. Following training, he served as a dealer in both London and Paris, but it seems he was not temperately suited for a commercial life. As a young man, Vincent floated between failed lives in art or religion. Vincent's unhappiness was such that his father had him committed to a lunatic asylum in 1880. Upon his release, Brother Theo suggested he take up an artist's life in earnest. Despite his rejection of formal training programs, Vincent applied and was accepted to several art schools.

Feature: VAN GOGH ALIVE at Stalight Theatre
Vincent's room: Photo by Al Portner

As near as can be told, Vincent had obvious talent yet no one was quite sure what to do with him. He was an evidently quite quarrelsome individual. There are records of several rejected relationships with women and at least one case of an STD. Despite forays into various artistic mediums, Vincent proved himself constitutionally unable to support himself in the art world. He lived mainly through the charity of his younger brother for the remainder of his life.

Over the final decade of his life, van Gogh formed short relationships with a number of noted artists. Each evidently saw something in the young man, but fell out with him after short periods. These included Christian Mourier-Petersen, Paul Gaugin, Emile Bernard, Charles Laval, Eugene Bochy, and others.

About this time, van Gogh was becoming more and more erratic. At one point, he severed his own ear (perhaps as part of an argument with Paul Gaugin). Van Gogh presented the ear to a young woman named Gaby. He later claimed to have no memory of the incident, but it was sufficient to get him re-institutionalized. He died generally of what is thought to be a suicide in July, 1890.

Vincent van Gogh sold very few, if any, paintings during his lifetime. There are somewhat north of 1000 van Gogh paintings still existent and are among the most valuable in the art world.

"Van Gogh Alive" has sprung to life on the cavernous Starlight stage house now through the end of the year. The exhibitor is Grande Experiences of Melbourne, Australia. The company claims that this touring production is among the most seen in the world over the last decade.

The exhibit is divided into three distinct areas, an explanatory area with a three dimensional rendering of van Gogh's bedroom, the projection area, and a sunflower area where photography is allowed.

Tickets are available at the www.kcstarlight.com website.

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From This Author - Alan Portner

Al Portner is regional editor for Broadway World – Kansas City.  He is a retired career journalist and media executive who has written for publication over more than 40 years. Portner ha... (read more about this author)


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Imagine, if you can, the ability to see beyond the strict confines of a framed piece of art. 'Van Gogh Alive,' a joint project of Starlight Theatre and the Nelson Atkins Art Museum, offers visitors a total immersion into Vincent's familiar, Post-Impressionist vision by way of massive, all enveloping, thirty ft. tall projections, backed by carefully selected musical score, and the specter of the artist's own words culled from hundreds of letters written in his final years.