Archive for life is the greatest form of art

Inspirations and Influences: Van Gogh’s Blues

Posted in Inspirations and Influences with tags , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2014 by Kimberly Cooper Nichols


Van Gogh Night Cafe

  The Night Cafe in the Place Lamartine in Arles, by Vincent Van Gogh. Oil on canvas. 70 x 89cm.  Painted in Arles, September, 1888. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery.  It is thought that this painting was created and offered as a rent payment by
Van Gogh to the owner of this cafe.


Neither of us like being amongst throngs of people, which is why we arrive at LACMA at ten a.m. on a Saturday for the Van Gogh to Kandinsky exhibition. First in line and groggy from the pool-playing marathon the night before, we are scrolling through my iPhone looking for my second favorite Van Gogh of all time. I spent a summer in New Haven in my late 20s with a boyfriend who was as an adjunct architecture professor at Yale. Many of my days were spent roaming the streets with my ten-year-old daughter looking for a good slice of white clam pizza, books from the secondhand stores and New Englander wool and tweed cast off skirts from the thrift shops. Not a day passed without my post-lunch visit to the University Art Gallery to steal a glimpse of The Night Café in Place Lamartine in Arles. The billiard table sliding down a wood slat floor, the yellow schizoid reverberations off the lamps, and that signature variation on teal blue green that creamily swathed the ceiling presented me with a surreal sense of calm during a summer I was miles from home.



 Van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait,” 1889, on Loan from the National Gallery of Art, Washington » Norton Simon Museum


My first favorite Van Gogh was spotted two Christmases ago when the Norton Simon museum imported it for the holidays. In person, the eerie strips and dashes of blue on the face reminded me of the underpinnings of things—cold veins in a vampire’s skin, the dry astringency of nervous disorders, arteries striving to burst out of a coolly, composed societal façade. The fact that the piece was a self-portrait of the artist made all of these associations seem ever more poignant.



  The Poplars at Saint-Rémy (Les peupliers sur la Colline), Vincent van Gogh, 1889, Oil on fabric.
The Cleveland Museum of Art, Bequest of Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. (1958.32). Photo © The Cleveland Museum of Art


Another perk of not liking to be around lots of people and getting to museums early, right when they open, is that we are able to beat the masses squeezing into to look at once towards four square feet of wall at a time. When we enter the LACMA exhibition we are first with only a few others around us. So when we come to what is now my third favorite Van Gogh of all time, The Poplars at Saint-Remy and we both take in a simultaneous and audible rush of breath as if we we’ve both been punched in the gut and accidentally say the word “Fuck” – it’s okay because there is no one around to hear us. We agree that it is perfect with its lush olive greens and chalk whites and indigo shadows and the house squeezed between the trees as if melting into the landscape that no one else would have been able to pull off. I am overwhelmed by the growing bubble of yellow bliss inside my belly that blooms and threatens to inflate, internally pop and lift the top of my head right off.

I have come to realize how much of my love of Van Gogh lies in his resonating blues, both literal and emotionally metaphorical; his fragmented perspective of reality that by slashing it into brushstroke sized pieces actually reveals the fact that we are all cut from the same molecular matter; and his all inclusive planes that expose the inherent connection of all.




The In Between Times

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on August 1, 2012 by Kimberly Cooper Nichols

ImageIt doesn’t happen often or it wouldn’t be as special, maybe thrice a year during moments of extreme production. I will be halfway through an ordinary day plugging along on the keyboard or in mid art trance and suddenly my funny bone will twitch and take me entirely off my pre-ordained track.

Last week it happened at noon while my eyes were going crosswise over some heavy research and I caught sight of my furrowed brow in the glare of my computer screen. I was somewhere in Santa Monica high above the sea and my body took over and leapt me up from my chair. Posture straightened and shoulders thrown back, I grabbed some white wine from the fridge and poured myself a glass. Looking out over the ocean, I felt compelled to roam with no concern to why I’d stray.

No clock. No list. No obligations. With just my feet on the concrete and the sun on my face in this in between time — this random crack in my slate, who knew what would spring forth and transpire?  No regards to why I yearned or what was next and then …

… a pink eighties sign in unrecognizable cursive came blinking out at me from above a door on Main Street and I ventured in to what appeared to be a regular old hair salon. I heard myself asking the woman at the desk if a chair was free and she nodded yes. Suddenly a man was washing my hair with a foreign voice and I asked him where he was from.

“Down South,” he said.

“Georgia?” I asked.


I told him I loved Mexico and then he started to cut my locks, seemingly one strand at a time, pulling it up with a comb, snipping the ends, and watching it fall into place on my neck. Things started to move in slow motion and I realized I hadn’t even looked around the place.

I noticed that all the people who worked there were dark and almost gypsy-like in their features and flair. A woman at the cutting station in front of me was thriving in a yellow silk coat like a peacock with a short fluff of red hair. She was prancing in front of the mirror looking at herself and winking unapologetically at her own gaze flirtatiously. Next to me was another woman who looked like an old crow, slumped over in her chair with wet matted hair all up in a spiny cocktail of black dye as an attentive neophyte teen applied inky strokes with a brush to her graying eyebrows. As the gentle man blew dry my hair I started to wonder if I had fallen down a rabbit hole. Everyone was dark and bold and I felt small and pale.

As he finished my curls with a swish of his brush and accepted my credit card to pay for the bill, he asked all the ladies in the salon to stand up and look. The crow-like crone told me I had the eyes of an innocent. The cardinal looking-glass dynamo told me I could bounce home now. The woman who had first sent me to my chair said I couldn’t make a return appointment because they didn’t plan that far in advance. The man who cut my hair asked me for a hug goodbye and whispered in my ear.

“You are a real live angel.”

A half an hour later I was home, sitting in front of my computer screen with new hair, a little stunned and unsure of where I had just been and whom I’d met there.

It’s the in between times like these that make me still believe in magic, like a little girl avoiding the lines in the sidewalk lest I break my mother’s back. Half in and half out of the world as I know it with a firm resolve not to groan under its weight.