Dick MacKenzie - www.dickshideaway.com
With a little inspiration from van Gogh
On a beautiful mid-May spring day in 2002 I stood in a Manitoba farm field with Peggy Sanders, Donna Prior, and Margaret Tew, three of Sioux Lookout’s beautiful, charming ladies. We were there to admire the sunflowers.
Those who know farming, gardening, and Manitoba agricultural cycles may wonder how we happened to be viewing sunflowers on May 15.
I thought of that moment this morning as I watched the sun rise. Vincent van Gogh described his inspiration for The Starry Night, one of his most famous paintings and among my favorites, “This morning I saw the country from my window a long time before sunrise…”
In years past my idea of fine art was the painting of hound dogs dressed up, sitting in chairs around a table playing poker. That became history though when I started to learn taxidermy as a teenager. The stuffed frogs dressed up, sitting on chairs, peering intently at their hands of cards quickly took over top spot.
A friend recently asked people to share their favorite paintings. I chose The Starry Night. I think it’s a wonderful compilation of colors and textures, although it doesn’t include any gambling dogs and frogs, unless, like me, you can picture those characters, in the kitchen, in the basement of the church at the center of the picture.
And the colors – the blues and yellows – remind me of the Rotary Club, and its founding principles: Is it true? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
I’m told that art should set our minds dreaming. So there… when I see dawn breaking as I await my chickadees, and a starry night vision leads me to the warm remembrance of standing in a field on a Manitoba morning many years ago, I like to think I’ve learned one more lesson about art appreciation.
I remember two important facts about Altona, Manitoba. It’s the home of the Friesen printing plant, the company that produced Sioux Lookout’s Tracks Beside the Water, volume 3, and it’s the showcase for the world’s tallest van Gogh painting, a two-story-tall reproduction of one of van Gogh’s sunflower paintings perched on its long-legged easel at the edge of a big field.
Peggy, Donna, Margaret and I spent a couple days in Altona sorting, compiling and editing hundreds of contributed stories and pictures, and designing the third volume of this Sioux Lookout history book. While there we enjoyed a few minutes in the field of the sunflower painting.
The three volumes of Tracks Beside the Water aren’t paintings, of course, but they are filled with stories of starry nights and sunny days, dogs and frogs, beauty, humor, joy, sorrow, dreams. They are bursting with unique art.
I hope you will think of that some morning as you admire an early rising sun, or on a clear winter night as you look skyward and imagine the stars singing your name.