Undergrowth With Two Figures

7:00 AM

Vincent van Gosh, Undergrowth With Two Figures, 1890

This is the final post of my junior year. That is foreign to write, so incomprehensible to think about, but it's here. It's been a vivid, chaotic, painful, brilliant blur of a year, and now it's coming to an end. The seniors are moving on to their futures, to college, to being grown-ups - whatever that means. They leave my class to step up, to become leaders, to wander through the undergrowth and grow into what we want to be. We have big shoes to fill, and even bigger holes in our hearts.

Van Gogh's piece is all too apropos for this bittersweet end. On my first day of Art History, nine months ago, we were asked to scour the library, find a painting we liked, and sketch it. Some people did better than others, artists showing off and others making chicken-scratch on their papers. But it didn't matter. It was all about the feel of the piece, the appreciation of its movement, and about some people's first real introduction to art. I found this in a giant book simply labeled "Impressionism" by accidentally dropping it and it falling open to one page. Van Gogh. The author sort of rambled about van Gogh's developing mental illness and schizophrenia, but all I could see was the journey, the growth of the trees out of the chaotic brush, and the two ghostly figures making their way through. They blend in with the stretched trees and almost disappear into the grass, but they're there, stepping forward.

After sketching at the speed of light and trying to make my drawing barely resemble the piece, my teacher told everyone to stop and began asking people to describe them. When it was finally my turn, my teacher looked to me curiously. I've never tried so hard not to shake in my life, and never failed so badly. I somewhat coherently sputtered out how the trees looked like bars, how harsh they were against the turbulent grass, and was commended on finding a piece he'd never seen. He then moved on casually, leaving me all too relieved and red-faced, intimidated by his gaze and the seniors who'd done this before. 

Things have changed, but that was the beginning of my more mature love of art. This piece changed the way I looked at it. Looking at art used to be private, something one admires in silence and hopes other people think you "get it." But now it's something to talk about, to debate, and something that changed the way I wrote altogether. I was so lucky to get to write about this piece, the one that inspired this mini-epiphany. I guess now it's time to walk out of the undergrowth. Now it's time to make myself a path through the trees and emerge stronger, better... It's time to grow up.

Editor's Note: The students were assigned to write about the artwork that has impacted them the most. These pieces will run for  about two weeks. 

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