When you think of Vincent Van Gogh, you probably think of paintings like “Sunflowers”
and “Starry Night,” but there's more to the story. San Diego artist Joe Nyiri tackled this subject in his new exhibit “Joe Nyiri: Considering Van Gogh The Man,” at Pacific Beach Library.
Nyiri was inspired to paint this series after reading “Van Gogh: The Life” by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith. Nyiri has shown his work at The Oceanside Museum of Art. He has taught art at San Diego public schools, libraries, and the zoo for decades.
Despite Nyiri's curriculum vitae, he admits that painting Van Gogh's personal life was a huge undertaking. After all, Van Gogh's paintings sell for more than $50 million at auction. His art is housed in permanent collections in the world's top museums. Books and films have told his story. Images of his paintings have even been plastered on such items as Van shoes and board games.
"It was intimidating," admitted Nyiri, but he was determined to unfold Van Gogh's life on canvas. Walking through the exhibit it’s evident Nyiri was on a mission.
"Reading about him, he was depressed, bi-polar, he was an epileptic, with syphilis. I was interested in his ailments," said Nyiri. Those ailments make their way to the canvas in Nyiri's paintings, along with Van Gogh friend and rival artist Paul Gauguin.
Nyiri researched Van Gogh by visiting his former home in Belgium, near a coal mine. According to Nyiri, "He was a very interesting guy. When he was depressed, he would go out in the fields and read Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol.’ He also spoke several languages. I was interested in his mental problems. I know people who are depressed, and they go through so much."
The mind of Van Gogh is a fascinating subject for any artist to explore , and walking through this exhibit is like diving into the canvas and entering a portal into Van Gogh's mind, sometimes tortured, sometimes beautiful, parts still unknown. Like most brilliant people, he was misunderstood. "Even his mom couldn’t accept his greatness," Nyiri said.
Nyiri said he hopes visitors of the exhibit will take a moment to take in each painting. "I want them to look. People look at things, but they don’t see. I teach kids, and I always say, I am not more intelligent than you, but I see more. "
Perhaps you will not only be inspired by this exhibit, but will walk away with a new understanding of the suffering and inner workings of one of history’s greatest artists.
“Considering Van Gogh The Man” will be on view until Aug. 16.
Where: Pacific Beach Taylor Library, 4275 Cass St.
For more information, visit http://joenyiri.com/.
Courtney Daly-Pavone is a freelance journalist living in San Diego.