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  • Jennifer Dowd

A Walk Through Van Gogh's Mind - Aug 4, 2023

Updated: Dec 22, 2023

As an art enthusiast, I recently had the opportunity to visit the Van Gogh exhibit in Victoria, BC. Admittedly, I had never been a great fan of Van Gogh's art, finding his distinctive style somewhat jarring and intense. However, as I wandered through the mesmerizing display of his works, something profound unfolded before my eyes. I discovered a deeper connection with the troubled artist and gained insight into how art can be a powerful tool for processing and communicating one's mental health struggles.

The exhibit showcased a vast collection of Vincent van Gogh's masterpieces, including his iconic sunflower series, the starry night, and self-portraits that depicted his ever-changing emotional state. Initially, I found myself lost in the bold brushstrokes and vibrant colors, unsure of how to appreciate the chaotic beauty. Yet, as I delved deeper, I couldn't help but notice the rawness and vulnerability present in every piece.

Vincent van Gogh's life was marked by constant emotional turmoil and mental health challenges. He endured periods of depression, anxiety, and, tragically, severe psychotic episodes. Through his art, Van Gogh offered a glimpse into his mind's complex maze, where pain and creativity were inextricably entwined. His paintings were not mere landscapes or portraits but reflections of his inner struggles, laid bare for the world to witness.

“You have first to experience what you want to express.”

- Van Gogh

As someone who has dealt with anxiety and moments of emotional turmoil, I understood how an artist could turn to their craft as a lifeline—a way to cope and make sense of the chaotic thoughts and emotions within. Van Gogh's art became an outlet for his anguish, a mirror reflecting the storms brewing within his soul.

For Van Gogh, painting wasn't just about creating pretty pictures—it was a means of catharsis. His art was an emotional release, a cathartic journey that enabled him to confront his inner demons. It reminded me that art doesn't have to be about perfection or aesthetically pleasing results—it can be a raw and unfiltered expression of our emotions, a testament to the human experience.

In our society, there is still a stigma surrounding mental health, often silencing those who suffer. But Van Gogh's legacy serves as a poignant reminder that we are not alone in our struggles, and art can be a powerful channel for fostering empathy and understanding. The exhibit left a mark on my soul, igniting a passion to explore more of art's transformative power and to use it as a medium to communicate my own emotions and experiences.

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