The latest program offered by the Merrillville Community Planetarium will explore the life and work of artist Vincent Van Gogh and how he was influenced by the stars.
“Van Gogh was inspired by the night sky, and it was reflected in his art,” said planetarium director Gregg Williams. “The program focuses on his life, his work and how he incorporated the night sky into some of his paintings.”
The program, which runs on weekends starting today and continues through Jan. 26, is part of the public series offered by Merrillville Community Planetarium, which is located inside Clifford Pierce Middle School.
The program was created in 2000 but is being re-released to commemorate the 160th anniversary of Vincent Van Gogh’s birth.
It was created by Pierce Middle School art teacher Maryann Foster. Foster, who is the chair of the school’s art department, has also created several other planetarium shows that merge astronomy with culture. But Van Gogh is a personal favorite.
“Of all the artists, he is one of my heroes because of his tragedy and suffering and being totally misunderstood,” she said. “It’s a great show for understanding Vincent and the Impressionists that were his friends.”
“Van Gogh Sees the Stars” focuses both on the artist and science.
“This show is good for people who want to learn about art as well as astronomy,” Williams said. “It’s a different emphasis than one of our more traditional shows.”
The planetarium offers four public shows a year, but is also available for group programs. Williams said this show is not traditional in that it doesn’t focus solely on astronomy.
Part of the program focuses on Van Gogh’s piece “Starry Night,” and where the stars in the painting are placed. Based on their placement, it is possible to pinpoint the date the painting was created, Williams said.
The program also focuses on the letters Van Gogh wrote to his brother, and how the artist’s mood swings might have been influenced by the full moon.
“It’s an interesting detective story,” Williams said.
Foster said research can prove that he painted outside.
“He really had a love of nature, the sky and the world around him,” she said. “He really felt the passion of the wind and the clouds and the rain.”
Foster went to Paris this summer, and spent some of her time studying Van Gogh and the places in France he painted.
“We saw a lot of the pictures he painted there, and the exact scene of what he was looking at when he painted that picture. You could see through Vincent’s eyes.”
Foster said she would like people to leave the planetarium show with a greater appreciation for the artist.
“He had epilepsy, a seizure problem, manic depression, mood swings,” she said. “He was expressive in his art, but psychotic in his behavior. He was often misunderstood.”