the art of mindbending

the life of zooey who happens to be Bipolar 2

vincent and doug

vincent-van-goghSunflowers, wheat fields, irises and starry nights. These are the images which come to mind when someone references Vincent van Gogh. A brilliant painter, mostly unrecognized in his time, has become decoration on just about every sort of item…cell phone cases, T-shirts, socks, coffee mugs, to name a few. Reprinted on poster paper and textured canvases alike, van Gogh’s work grace walls across the world.

Most of Vincent’s famous works were created in the last two years of his life. 2,100 artworks, including 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 which included drawings, watercolors, prints and sketches. Let’s do the math. For 365 x 2 years or 730 days, that’s an average of over 1 oil painting a day and over 1.7 other works. So, 2.7 pieces of art a day. Holy fuck!

He was born only one day short of my birthday…March 30 vs. my March 31. I identify with Vincent on several levels, as a former artist and as a person with bipolar. Although up for some debate, many believe he was bipolar.

van Gogh had earlier suffered two distinct episodes of reactive depression, and there are clearly bipolar aspects to his history. Both episodes of depression were followed by sustained periods of increasingly high energy and enthusiasm, first as an evangelist and then as an artist. The highlights of van Gogh’s life and letters are reviewed and discussed in an effort toward better understanding of the complexity of his illness.

the-bedroom-at-arlesHe was largely a self-taught artist. I was, too. The color, shapes and rhythm of his work have always appealed to me. I also worked in bouts of fury and productivity, followed by deep depression and rashness.

With medication, I’ve stopped these roller coaster rides. But with the medications comes no more creative bursts. No ideas. No desire to pick up materials and create anything as I used to do. The studio has been gutted. The tools of the trade packed away. The materials donated to a local college. All of my art has been removed from the walls and stored. It’s too painful for me to look at what I no longer do. That ‘me’ has faded to gray.

I have to admit it is a temptation to stop the cocktail I’m on is great. Since I have no motivation to create, it’s hard to know if stopping would change that. This is one black dog argument when I’m depressed…that the medications don’t work well enough anyway, why stay on them? Why not go back to creating visual art?

Still, Vincent is with me every day. His starry night graces our bedroom wall. I wonder, could I be like I was before?

“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” –Vincent van Gogh

Dreamless in Kansas wheat fields,



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This entry was posted on September 30, 2015 by in Art, Bipolar 2, depression, dreams, perspective and tagged , .
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