SMC students attending ‘Van Gogh’s Bedrooms’

Southwestern Michigan College sent 15 students to the Art Institute of Chicago Friday for “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms.”

A combination of SMC and dual-enrolled Edwardsburg High School students studying art history — Payton Chaney, Gabriella Mamouzelos, Malary VanOverberge, Jacob Hainer, Hannah Krager, Susan Lary, Samantha Robbins, Adam Weaver, Johanna Gallagher and Jenna Merrill — escorted by five faculty — Marc Dombrosky, David Baker, Bill Rothwell, Shannon Eakins and Joe Coti — caught a South Shore train from South Bend International Airport for Millennium Station.

“Gabriella and Hannah e-mailed me, ‘We’ve got to see this!’ because we were studying Van Gogh,” said Dombrosky, Department of Visual and Performing Arts chairman. “It’s helpful when they’re engaged like that. For their final project they put together a virtual exhibition, designing a theme, choosing artists from different lectures and writing an essay supporting that theme.

”John Hughes grew up in Chicago and used to go to the museum. He montaged (the scene in ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day off’) so it focuses on his favorite works. Cameron experiences an existential crisis” viewing “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” Georges Seurat’s 1884 pointillist painting.

The Art Institute is enjoying its most-attended show in 15 years — since an exhibit focused on the Van Gogh/Paul Gauguin rivalry.

If trends persist, the Art Institute may reach 350,000 visitors by May 10 when the three-month exhibition ends, the museum’s marketing director told the Chicago Tribune.

Van Gogh “developed his own system with all the swirling, different textures,” Dombrosky said. “By making brushwork so visible, you see how he’s building it. He’s painting fast and not going back and smoothing it out. Brushwork becomes its own subject. His letters speak in color.”

Dombrosky arranged the Loop campus visit through a colleague affiliated with the School of the Art Institute, Patrick Quilao, featured in SMC’s gallery in October 2014.

Vincent Van Gogh (March 30, 1853-July 29, 1890) created three distinct paintings in 1888-89 before ending his life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound at 37.

This exhibition brings together all three versions of “The Bedroom” for the first time in North America.

The Dutch painter created his first “Bedroom” after moving into his “Yellow House” in Arles, France, in 1888. It is now in the collection of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

After water damage threatened it, Van Gogh painted a second version while in an asylum in Saint-Remy in 1889. It is part of the Art Institute’s permanent collection.

Van Gogh also made a smaller version for his mother and sister housed at Paris’ Musee d’Orsay.

Beginning with Van Gogh’s early canvases of cottages and birds’ nests, the show features three dozen works to “explore the artist’s use of the motif of home — as haven, creative chamber and physical reality — and follows the evolution of this theme throughout his career, beyond the Yellow House to the asylum at Saint-Remy,” according to the Art Institute. “The presentation concludes with Van Goh’s final residence in Auvers-sur-Oise, where he again painted a series of cottages — returning to the idea that first evoked in him a sense of home.”

A digitally enhanced reconstruction of his bedroom lets viewers experience his state of mind and the physical reality of the space.

The Art Institute for several years has experimented with technology enhancing stories behind art.

Van Gogh’s Bedrooms offers its most ambitious effort yet.

Working with Philadelphia-based Bluecadet, the museum created digital displays so viewers can navigate decades of discoveries at interactive kiosks and examine excerpts from letters to his brother Theo and housemate Gauguin.

Pulling visitors into three versions of “The Bedroom” is an 18-foot-wide panoramic projection with high-resolution digital images for unparalleled detail.

Anxiety and mental illness plagued Van Gogh throughout his life.

He famously severed his ear just before Christmas 1888, although it has been speculated he lost it fighting Gauguin, a fencer.

Van Gogh did not paint until his late 20s. His best-known works came in a three-year burst at his most depressed.

He produced 2,100 artworks, including 860 oils, in just over a decade.

“Irises” sold for $53.9 million in 1987, “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” for $82.5 million in 1990.

The Art Institute outfitted an Airbnb rental apartment bedroom to resemble the Van Gogh painting.

Lodgers “sleep inside the painting” in a double bed while the rest of the unit remains thoroughly modern.

Southwestern Michigan College is a public, residential and commuter, community college, founded in 1964. The college averages in the top 10 percent nationally for student academic success based upon the National Community College Benchmark Project. Southwestern Michigan College strives to be the college of first choice, to provide the programs and services to meet the needs of students, and to serve our community. The college is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and is a member of the American Association of Community Colleges.

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