My project combines Van Gogh’s starry night with the art of graffiti. I created my piece using oil paint on cardstock. My vision was to take the iconic swirling sky of Starry Night and position it above a graffitied New York City skyline. Several buildings and the train in the foreground are graffitied, and for the graffiti phrases I chose “Van Gogh was here” and “Love NYC”. The former came from imaging Van Gogh in the 21st century, and believing that since he was also an ‘outcast’, he would’ve identified with the graffiti artists of today. The latter was seen in reference photos, and spoke to me both in its backwards syntax and blunt expression of love. I also included a small mural of an ear with flowers growing out of it, an homage to Van Gogh’s cut off ear. It was fun to suspend my own artistic instinct and paint in the style of someone else, which for Van Gogh included short, unblended brush strokes and thick black outlines.
If art is defined as the aesthetic expression of ideas or emotions, both pieces can certainly be defined as art. Yet, the pieces are vastly different in both their form and perception. Starry Night was painted in short, swirling brushstrokes with thick usage of oil paint in post-impressionist style. Graffiti is created using spray paint in multiple layers in public spaces. One is put on a pedestal and held away in a prestigious museum; the other is openly accessible and is often disparaged as simply vandalism. Yet, both are created by those who were considered outcasts of society. Vincent Van Gogh created Starry Night while he was in a mental asylum. He was viewed as an erratic and strange man, especially in a day wherein mental illness was heavily stigmatized. His art was viewed as eccentric and distasteful, similar to how graffiti is viewed today. Graffiti is also said to be created by the outcasts of society, those who are not afraid to step outside the bounds of the law in the name of creation. Both arts brilliantly show the ability of outcasts, who otherwise may have no outlet, to find their expression in art. I enjoyed combining these two arts and comparing their initial reception and creators. It led me to consider the future of graffiti, and if it were possible that the graffiti we see on the streets around us daily could someday rise to prestige, in the way that Starry Night did.
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