I well remember a Van Gogh exhibit that I attended back in college, and in particular, his painting entitled, "Pair of Shoes"(1886.) Van Gogh's work often expressed sentiments that he felt about his subjects, and in this depiction of a workman's well-worn, seasoned boots conveyed a moving portrait of their owner. Transcending a simple arrangement of inanimate objects, this painting communicated much more--a sense of family, belonging, humility, character, and perseverance—human qualities.
|"Pair of Old Shoes" Vincent van Gogh|
I recalled “Old Shoes” again today when a talented artist friend (Kate) asked me to critique some of her newest work. It happened to be a series featuring shoes—all types, from work to casual to dancing, and each painting spoke volumes about the people who wore them.
Kate wondered whether she had become a little obsessive about her theme, and that got me to thinking about the role of theme in art. As a writer, I aim to weave it into a piece in such a way that the characters or subjects, the setting, storyline, events, direct the readers to interpret a theme for themselves. Similarly, art presents the same challenge; accomplished through composition, lighting, color, brushwork, etc., and it’s always gratifying when, without the benefit of words, a particular painting successfully conveys my intent visually.
I have always been inspired to paint still life and make it anything but still. In the same way that a poet crafts his work with precision, incorporating metaphors that make you think, associate and subsequently be moved in some way, and like Van Gogh and my artist friend, I especially enjoy giving simple objects human qualities; creating something of beauty that people will respond to emotionally, visually, intellectually.