One of my favorite paintings is Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night.
The swirls are my favorite part of the painting, with the colors coming in at my second-favorite thing about it. To me, The Starry Night evokes the stillness and quiet of nighttime, and there’s something calming and yet forlorn about it. The mood that it captures reminds me of being a child, lying in bed, unable to sleep, and looking out my window at the stars.
I grew up in a small town where I could look out my window and see stars, and depending on where I lived at the time, I could also see the man-made landscape beginning to take form in front of me. When I looked out my window, I wondered who else was awake along with me. I wondered how life would be when I was older. I wondered what life was like years before I was born.
Something about looking out the window at the stars made me feel like there was more to life than just the limited things I knew, and I wondered if I’d ever get the chance to explore all there was to see in the world.
The blue in the painting, to me, seems melancholy. It seems uncertain. The yellows suggest a little glimmer of hope in the sea of uncertainty. The dark, tall building on the right-hand side seems like a tower where one might be trapped, unable to escape for an indefinite amount of time. The buildings in the rest of the painting, spread out all around that dark tower – to me – suggest the world beyond the tower.
As a child, I felt that sense of being trapped in a place I could not escape. I felt locked in my own metaphorical tower, for what I felt would be a long, long, long time. I suppose that’s the appeal to me of the painting itself. It’s that I see a reflection of my own longing to leave the darkness of the tower and head out into the sea of houses to seek whatever fortune I imagined might be awaiting me upon my escape from the dark tower.
This painting has been one of my favorites since childhood, and I never really took the time to think about what it represented for me. I don’t think I could ever speak what it represented for me when I was a girl, since I didn’t have the words.
Growing up, I felt that sense of melancholy I saw in the painting. But when I looked out at the stars, upon that Starry Night, there was a glimmer of hope.
(Featured photo of stars by Ronald Carlson at PublicDomainPictures.net. Find it here.)