Slice of Life: Wandering Inside Immersive Art

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

My wife and I, along with a friend of ours, took a day trip into Boston the other day to explore one of two immersive Van Gogh shows in the city, and it was pretty marvelous. The show had taken over a huge cavernous space inside a building in South Boston, hung massive black curtains, and set up a stunning array of high-definition movie projectors and sound systems.

After wandering through a poster display of information about Van Gogh and the technical mechanics of the show itself, you step into the room, and it’s like stepping inside a Vincent Van Gogh field of art, and not just his most famous paintings, either. Here, we wandered through his sketches, his period of art inspired by Japanese paintings, and so much more. Although this show did not feature any VR headsets or anything, the curation was thoughtful — the paintings moved across the curtains of the huge room, in a synchronized dance of visual experience. You could sit on a bench, and let the art unfold around you, or you could wander through the room.

At Immersive Art Show

What struck me was the array and choice of colors and the brush strokes, the way this kind of different experience brings you close to the canvas, like an insect crawling along the edges of an artist at work. It’s as if every decision by the artist is there, made visible, if you can read it, and yet that does not spoil the beauty of the art, either.

Afterwards, we chatted about the experience and what lingers with me is how the scaling up of the art gave a different perspective, and opened my eyes further, to what Van Gogh was attempting to capture, even with all of his financial and mental health difficulties. It gave another glimpse of how an artist of his caliber must see the world.

I also marveled at the technical aspects of the show itself, noticing the placement of computers in the rafters and the sound system setup, and the way the choice of music fit so perfectly with the mood of each round of paintings (there were themed rotations in the room, one theme segueing into another).

Peace (wandering through),

  1. Kevin, I agree – the immersive art experience is captivating. We saw the Van Gogh exhibit in Atlanta and can’t wait for the new Monet immersive experience to arrive. Your description of the brush strokes and details are eye opening – I didn’t see as deeply as you did with the projectors and lighting, but you’ve opened my eyes to to that more attentively next time. Oh, to be close enough for a day trip to Boston. I love that area of the country!

  2. I haven’t been to one of the immersive exhibits, but I am anxious to see this one. I really liked your line “like an insect crawling along the edges of an artist at work.” It gave both the sense of the altered perspective and the size of the images. Thanks for this. I also enjoyed hearing your words on the youtube panel from last week.

  3. Well, now i have a new perspective on this experience. We went in Los Angeles and my husband and I felt underwhelmed by it. But after reading your description, I feel a new appreciation for the experience!

  4. There’s an immersive Van Gogh exhibit in Salt Lake City right now. We drove down to visit it a couple weeks ago. I too loved the experience and found the posters chronicling Van Gogh’s life fascinating. We’re flying to Amsterdam for a Biking Cruise in a few weeks, and I’m hoping to visit the Van Gogh museum, which has been closed because of Covid. I’ve heard there’s an immersive Monet exhibit in the works. I’d love to see that, too.

  5. I’ve been to both of the immersive exhibits here (NYC), and there were things I liked about both. They made me wonder what other art I’d like to see this way. Whose work would you want to see in an immersive show?

  6. Kevin, thanks for setting the scene for me. One of my friends saw the VanGogh exhibit in Florida and marveled over it. She even sent photos that spanned a large portion of the room. This sounds like a wonderful museum visit for you and your wife. I appreciate you sharing the experience.

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