Stories from the Immersive Van Gogh

For me, there is only one other peak art experience that compares with the Immersive Van Gogh. When I was about ten years old my mother and her friend Ann Anderson took their kids on the commuter train to Chicago to see the movie FANTASIA. It was a grand adventure as my sister and I had never been on a train and rarely to the city even though we lived in Naperville, a suburb only thirty miles away.

FANTASIA is still one of my favorite movies, just for the sheer beauty of it—not only the images but the music. Can I ever forget the Sourcerers’ Apprentice? I was reminded of the mesmerizing impact of seeing it on the big screen when I visited the Immersive Van Gogh last week in Orlando. It’s one of 14 cities where the exhibition is playing, and we just happened to be driving through on our annual trek to spend the winter in Florida.

Like FANTASIA, the Immersive Van Gogh is basically a movie, only it covers all four walls and the floor. Also like FANTASIA, it’s a painting in motion—it’s as if we are the artist creating the iridescent irises, the fields of wheat, the blooming sunflowers as they emerge and merge and melt away.

And like FANTASIA, it’s a movie that’s not big on story. It’s an experience, an ecstatic one at that. The stories, I found, were in the people who were viewing it—the family grouped on their socially distanced, Covid-spaced circle on the floor, with the two kids sliding out and bouncing back with a few acrobatics thrown in—dark figures against the vibrantly colored walls, a dance especially for me. Or the mother-daughter pair—the daughter preening like a fashion model as the screen changed from Dutch peasants to the city of Arles to the starry nights and the mother tirelessly took photos. They stopped for a while and sat on the circle that the family had vacated, only to step up and start again.

I took some shots myself—it was impossible not to. (And it was encouraged by the producers to share photos and videos of the exhibit.) 

I do recommend the Immersive Van Gogh if you can Gogh—their Covid-safe policies of required masks, limited crowds and social distancing made me feel like it would be OK to risk going.

Immersive Van Gogh