Van Gogh Alive and well in Downtown St. Petersburg

I love when my readers get involved. 

I’ve written countless posts over the years about the silliest and most serious of topics: readers’ e-mails, conversations across the bar, ballgames, movies, gambling, television, relationships, you name it.  If you’ve asked, I’ve done my best to touch upon it.  Or at least tried to.

I recently took BCole (or perhaps more accurately, BCole took me) to a local art exhibit… but this was no ordinary art exhibit.  When one faithful subscriber suggested I work the visit into a SportsChump post, how could I possibly say no?

While nobody tells DJ Request what to play (name the movie, win fabulous prizes), anyone and everyone who chimes into this site is welcome to suggest a topic of conversation.  Brother Bill, challenge accepted, for if nothing else, Vincent Van Gogh’s artwork is as inspirational as it comes.

Tampa Bay is not necessarily known for its museums, which is unfortunate considering we have plenty: a Tampa Bay History Center, a local museum of art, a Museum of Science and Industry, a Firefighters Museum, a Museum of Photographic Arts, a baseball museum and countless others that warrant mention… but the Salvador Dali Museum is the area’s most intriguing of the bunch, not only because the oddly-mustachioed Spanish surrealist (“I don’t do drugs, I am drugs.”) painted some pretty heady stuff but because his museum resides right by the water in beautiful and highly artistic in its own right, downtown St Petersburg.

Like most museums, Dali offers its fair share of traveling exhibits but its latest is deservedly drawing visitors in droves, as it should, even in times of oft inspiration-less, self-isolation.

We are all familiar (or at least should be) with the work of Vincent Van Gogh: Starry Night, (multiple) Self-Portrait(s), Sunflowers, The Bedroom, Café Terrace at Night and of course his final and ominous Wheatfield with Crows, among others.  Even people of succeeding generations find him one of the most recognizable and adored artists of all time.

We all know the basics about Van Gogh: the countless works of art, the fact that he only sold one painting while still alive, that he sliced off his own ear and that he ultimately went crazy and committed himself to an asylum where, fortunately, he continued to paint until his final Crows.

He is, by most accounts, one of the greatest artists of all time.

As soon as we heard that an altogether different, visual celebration called Van Gogh Alive was coming to the Tampa Bay area, the exhibit got bumped up with ultimate priority on our to-do-list queue.  Without featuring a single piece of his artwork, at least not on canvas, the artistry of Vincent Van Gogh was breathtakingly recreated into a 21st century display for visitors to enjoy.  Note: If you’re in the immediate area, I highly recommend you pay it a visit before it leaves town in April 11.

I’ve had the good fortune of attending the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam.  It was an exhilarating way to spend a Holland afternoon.  However, if you don’t have the means, Van Gogh Alive is a far more accessible an equally enjoyable and engaging telling of the life, art form and spirit of one of the greatest artists we’ve ever known.

Limited by admission due not only to the current pandemic but also the size of the room, patrons walk in wonderment staring at the multiple walls that rotate, brightly displaying in chronological order Van Gogh’s works of art, sharing what we already knew about the artist and so much that we didn’t.

“The exhibition features more than 3,000 Van Gogh images at enormous scale, viewed through high-definition projectors and synchronized to a powerful classical score. Cinema-quality surround-sound amplifies the emotion generated by the works themselves. In addition to the iconic works featured, visitors can examine Van Gogh’s inspiration via photographs and video displayed alongside them.”

The Dali is the first North American museum to feature Van Gogh Alive and those who walk through its walls are all the better for it; it was a beautiful and inspirational way to spend an evening.  The exhibit runs about 40 minutes long and is mighty tempting to sit through twice, if not more.  While Van Gogh’s actual works of art are hard to see firsthand, Van Gogh Alive does its visual and auditory best to remind you of his impact.  It is nothing if not inspirational.

The beautifully illuminated display begins with his early work, traces his multiple influences and travels through time, ultimately ending with his descent into lunacy and depression. 

“Look at the eyes,” she said.  “You can see the depression.”  Therein lay the beauty of Van Gogh’s art, his brush strokes, color scheme and tone that we only wish we could have watched as he was painting them.  We interpret in our own way what he wanted us to see and feel well over a century later.

Vincent Van Gogh remains one of the most talented and conflicted artists we’ve ever known.  Van Gogh Alive celebrates his long-lasting impact in a way that allows his brilliance to live on by reaching millions more.  While those who partake might not see the canvas, thanks to those who created the traveling exhibit, we are fortunate enough to see them in a different and equally inspiring light.

Art comes in many forms.  I’m not going to sit here and pretend to tell you what Van Gogh’s art means, but rather what it, and the evening, meant to me.

And that, I think I just did.

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8 Replies to “Van Gogh Alive and well in Downtown St. Petersburg”

  1. You forgot to list the Henry B. Plant museum and the University of Tampa. Especially the exhibit there during the month of December. And the maritime ship, that was used during World War 2

  2. You left out my personal favorite, the Showmans Museum in Gibsonton. That’s where I get my freak on.

  3. And I thought you were just a bartender who likes to golf & drink at sporting events. Well spoken, sir. I’m not a huge art fan, but a voracious reader so I imagine things in my mind through the written word. As far as conflicted, I’m on the same page with VVG – some days are great, some days I just want it to be over. We all have it coming some day anyway. At any rate, best wishes to you and yours for the holidays.

  4. Greg…

    I didn’t include those two. I stand corrected.

    I’ve never been on that warship (perhaps I’ll check it out) and I just didn’t think anyone outside of the immediate area had ever heard of Henry B. Plant, despite a high school and a town being named after him.

  5. Deac…

    The Showman’s museum? Can’t say I know that one.

    Is that associated with Ringling? Hugh Jackman isn’t down there, is he, and if so, does he ever go full Wolverine?

  6. Thanks for the kind words as always, Moose.

    I’ll have a review of my friend’s book coming up shortly.

    It makes for a great holiday gift for oneself, in addition to supporting a local artist.

    Stay tuned.

  7. Showman’s is a museum dedicated to circus and carnival history. I don’t know about Hugh, but you might meet the Lobster Boy. Cheers!

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