A few weeks ago, I attended Immersive Van Gogh, a show that has been touring the United States this year. There are actually two simultaneous Van Gogh shows happening at the moment, Immersive Van Gogh and Van Gogh- The Immersive Experience. I attended Immersive Van Gogh which is being held at Pier 36 in New York City until September before it heads off to another city.
Having always been an art nerd, having been voted class artist in high school, needing to prepare an art portfolio to get into FIT and the other art schools I applied to, plus two years of an art history requirement, a love of art has been running through my veins for as long as I can remember. I loved art history in school and learned more about history and religion in these classes than in any other classes I took. In my art history classes, we spent two weeks deconstructing and studying works like the Sistine Chapel, learned about all the hidden messages in Vermeer paintings, and also that Manet was the first artist to paint a nude that wasn’t depicted as an allegorical or religious figure, that painting is Le Déjeuner Sur L’herbe if you are interested.
Van Gogh, well everyone knows Van Gogh, right? At some point in everyone’s life, they have owned a mug, mousepad, calendar, or reproduction of one of his pieces of work. Given the approachability of Van Gogh, choosing to showcase his works in this new type of immersive format was a brilliant choice. Not only are we familiar with much of the works that spanned his very short life as an artist, Van Gogh only started painting at 27 or 28 and died at 37, most people feel their own connections to his work.
For me, my first experience was a Van Gogh calendar when I was in high school that hung in my bedroom. Many of the works from that calendar were part of the Immersive Van Gogh exhibit. Seeing them larger than life, feeling completely immersed in the paintings, I couldn’t help but have a moment of reflection of that time in my suburban bedroom as a teenager who dreamt of one day living in New York City with a big, full life. The life I once dreamed about is now a long-established reality.
Despite the fact that I have easy access to many Van Gogh paintings, like The Starry Night that hangs right in the Museum of Modern Art, Immersive Van Gogh allowed viewers to really see how adept Van Gogh was with the use of color. The exhibit is projected over 500,0000 cubic feet of space that gives you such an up-close and personal experience, you get to see his work like you never have before. Every brushstroke, every painstaking layer of color, all harmonized in such a way, I was so incredibly inspired, so much so, my friend and I sat through the show twice. Van Gogh, for lack of a better description, was a genius with color.
OUTFITS INSPIRED BY THE COLORS IN VAN GOGH’S PAINTINGS
As you know, I love using creative color inspiration to create outfits and within seconds of my second viewing of Immersive Van Gogh, I had the idea to use some of his most well-known paintings and using them to create outfits. This falls into my styling strategy called Road Map Styling. Below, check out five Van Gogh paintings and how I used the colors to create five inspired outfits.
#1- The Starry Night
I styled this first look, inspired by The Starry Night, using this Kobi Halperin easy jacket to pick up the mottled appearance of the sky and layered over a cobalt top from M.M. Lafleur to capture the bold punches of that color in the sky. For the deep, dark shades, I used these deep navy pants from J. Crew and finished the look with shades of blue using this inky blue bag from See by Chloé, a tagua layered necklace from J.Jill and for that bright splash of yellow, these block heeled sandals from Ted Baker.
Prior to really examining Van Gogh’s paintings, I never realized the love of this muted minty green he had. Van Gogh uses it a lot and it is a gorgeous backdrop to one of his most famous series of paintings, Sunflowers. To capture the colors, I styled this linen-blend knotted midi skirt from Madewell with a paprika-colored t-shirt from Rag & Bone. I finished the outfit with olive slides from Sam Edelman, gold drop earrings, and a mint crossbody from ALLSAINTS.
In addition to a love of painting sunflowers, Van Gogh also has a series of paintings depicting Irises. This was the painting of the series that was shown at Immersive Van Gogh and so beautiful you felt like one of those lovely irises blooming in the garden. Here again, you see that beautiful minty shade is the perfect backdrop for the purple of the irises to pop. To capture these colors, I was fortunate to find BOSS Hugo Boss working with this shade a lot this season. I styled this dress with a pair of purple pumps and a beaded necklace in tones of purple. I finished the look with an ivory bag to capture that one ivory bloom.
#4- Almond Blossoms
In my opinion, Almond Blossoms is Van Gogh’s most stunning piece. It’s not only delicate and pretty, the depth and tones of the teal background are incredibly tranquil and pleasing. And, wow, seeing those teal shades blown up at Immersive Van Gogh was truly extraordinary. The image here does not come close to really capturing it. The best way I could capture the lights and darks found in the background of Almond Blossoms was to work tonally with the shade and I was fortunate to find this cardigan from Nordstrom and this tunic from Eileen Fisher that did it. To reflect that taupe shade of the branches, I added these pants from Joie and flats from Everlane. The ivory faux leather tote from Street Level represents the almond blossoms and the delicate beaded necklace from Madewell brings the colors together.
#5- The Night Café in the Place Lamartine in Arles
I hesitated using Van Gogh’s The Night Café in the Place Lamartine in Arles as color inspiration for an outfit because historically green and red styled together can read too Christmas-y. But I knew if I could find the right red and the right green, it was possible. Using this suit from M.M. Lafleur (link to jacket and link to pants) in a color called Rust and Boss Hugo Boss’ green shade called Mineral, not only could I create a red and green color combination with the suit and this sweater that is actually wearable but a combination that comes close to capturing the colors of this painting. I finished the look with straw-colored strappy sandals, a cognac bag from Rebecca Minkoff, and a beaded necklace from Kenneth Jay Lane.
Being able to view Van Gogh’s work in this innovative way was an amazing experience and I can only hope that we’ll be seeing more immersive exhibits featuring other artists in the future. With art programs being cut in schools across the country, a history of art being inaccessible in poorer communities, and a societal obsession with the tech world and fleeting trends, exhibits like this invite allow anyone to view and appreciate great art in an approachable manner. Art gave me a way to achieve my goals and dreams, it offered me a form of communication when I couldn’t find the right words and helped give me an understanding of history and the world I wouldn’t have had otherwise. We need art and we need exhibits like this.