My mother and I once worked together at a NJ daily newspaper. Those were the good old days of three-hour lunches and quick trips to the bathroom throughout the day to pow-wow with my mom. Talk about constant contact. We didn’t need to text. Actually, even back then (in the ‘80s) we had instant messaging on our computers. She was the art critic, among other things, and I was at one time a theater critic, also among other things. We got along famously and I was always proud of her accomplishments, though in my mind, nothing tops her upcoming book.
New Jersey Artists Through Time, an illustrated color history of New Jersey artists, many of whom she has written about and photographed, is her 30th book to date. She also still makes her own art as she has done since before I was born 46 years ago. And, of course, the criticism never stops. When she heard about the recent media stir about Vincent van Gogh, here’s what she had to say about it:
Lots of people grew up knowing the tragic story of Vincent van Gogh, how he was tormented by mental illness, frustrated in his relationships, capable of cutting off his own ear, and incapable of selling his paintings except to his brother, Theo. And yet, it's now in the news---as our beloved Vincent lies in his grave, his paintings are being snapped up by the uber-wealthy for millions of dollars. His self-portraits are ubiquitous; prints of his "Irises" and "Sunflowers" hang on the walls of restaurants, business workplaces, doctors' offices, and his "Starry Night" is even more popular than the plaintive ballad "Starry, Starry Night" by Don McLean containing the lyric, "I could've told you, Vincent, the world was never meant for one as beautiful as you."
As an artist with bipolar disorder, I always feel sorry for van Gogh. I wish I'd known him. In some way, I think I do. I also worked as a psychiatric nurse, and I saw a good lot of artwork by those suffering from depression, schizophrenia, addiction and myriad other problems. I really mean a good lot. So much of it was brilliant, beautiful, complex, and masterful, as though the artists had studied with revered and famous artists. I paint or make a collage or a construction because I must. It's not a choice any more than having a mental disorder is a choice.
Whenever I've gotten very depressed or very "up" (manic), I turned to making art without ever beating myself up for not being Rembrandt or Georgia O'Keeffe. I never even understood the mood swings until I was diagnosed in my mid-fifties and prescribed the appropriate meds. To me, the most intriguing aspect of my life as an artist is that, after I became accustomed to the daily medications and the mood swings nicely subsided, making art is still not a choice.
I can't help but conclude that art is universally therapeutic whether you can draw a straight line or not. Isn't there an old song called "Art and Soul"? Alright, I took some artistic license here, art therapy is worth a try, purchase art directly from artists who possibly live down the block from you, and think of Vincent, who never got to enjoy a minute of his monumental success.