I’ve always been fascinated by Vincent Van Gogh. His life and career seemed so turbulent and interesting. Not only was he prolific, but his style of painting, which is uniquely rhythmic and dense, continues to astound me. I may never tire of those textured swirls and vibrant goopy brush strokes. It’s no wonder his work became so famous and his life story so well-known; I am not alone in my admiration of true talent coupled with tragedy and, oh, what a great tragic story, laden with torment, strife and utter beauty. It was only a matter of time before Hollywood had its way with that script.
Aside from the epic backstory, what truly fascinates me is the artist’s hand—the actual application of paint on the canvas. In fact, when I think about Van Gogh, I think about him sitting down (or standing—he could be standing in this scenario) mixing paint on a crusty pallet and veraciously wiping that loaded brush on a rough canvas over and over and over again, with a reckless gusto and perhaps the bitter thought that he didn’t make enough of that taupe-ish green color.
Now, after 10 years of attempting to recreate and appropriate his masterful rhythm in paint, I think less about Vincent’s hand and more about his brother, Theo. If it weren’t for Theo, Vincent wouldn’t have created those masterpieces. Every artist must have a Theo. Someone who sees "beyond" for the artist. Yes, of course I have one. She is there for me, has always seen "beyond", providing goats and other useful and intelligent friends and advice; connections to all things important. From childhood there have been farm animals. And while all of our animals were wonderful, the goats were so personable, so easy to connect with. I learned about myself and the larger community by studying the society of goats. Every goat has a rank and a purpose, a specific role to fulfill, yet every goat is unique--like us. Goats serve as a constant inspiration and reminder of all my early lessons.
Life is pretty heavy business, whether you are a goat or a goat admirer. The Van Goats are lighter. Much lighter. We are all in on this joke together, with the only earnest part being the expression on those honest goats’ faces. The late and great Alan Watts laid it out so wonderfully when he said this about humor: “Basically, humor is an attitude of laughter about oneself. There is malicious humor which is laughing at other people but real deep humor is laughter at oneself. Fundamentally, what makes you laugh at yourself? Isn’t it because you know there is a big difference between what goes on the outside and what goes on the inside?”