Dear Vincent

Originally published on Facebook as part of the social media experiment #30DaysofArt

It took me all morning to find the Vincent van Gogh paintings in the Musée d’Orsay. Not because they’re not well marked — I could have walked right to them — but because I have a thing about delayed gratification, so I made myself walk through every other room leading up to Vincent. And then there he was, like a long-lost lover appearing, as the crowds parted, at the end of the jetway. “Mine,” I thought. And then I ugly-cried like an overwhelmed Justin Beiber fan, right there in front of Vincent’s self-portrait.

To be fair, I also cried a least a little bit because I’d doing too many hill sprints in Montmartre and not enough chilling at cafes, drinking half-carafes of Sancerre. Sometimes I make it very hard to be me. My hips ached and the slow crawls through museum after museum didn’t help. Also, Paris is terribly romantic and everyone is in love and making out everywhere all the time, but I was not in love. I was alone. It was bullshit.

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I wondered, in the Musée d’Orsay, if Vincent wasn’t a lot like me. Too hard on himself and in love with someone who didn’t love him back, or at least not as he should have been loved. Because, my god! He was Vincent Fucking van Gogh! But he probably didn’t know that. He probably thought he was a weird Dutch dude, hopelessly unstylish, who made strange paintings. He probably suspected he was inherently unlovable. And yet love lived in him, so he did what he could — he put it all on the canvas. Those kinetic shapes, the saturated colors, the way a wheat field was as sensual as a woman; the way he captured his own agony with the same electric strokes he painted sunflowers — as if human ache and madness pulsed with the same sun-drenched ebullience as a vase of fresh flowers.

He worked at the synthesis of beauty and pain. He buried his heart there, in those hues, those lines that are so specifically his. And I swear his lovely, immortal, perfectly broken heart beats on, forever, through his paintings.

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