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Photo Provided by the Kennedy Art Museum

'The Van Gogh Affect' encapsulates the artists’ influence on current-day artists

Award-winning photographers Lynn Johnson and Patricia Lanza created the photo exhibition titled “The Van Gogh Affect” that is currently on display at the Kennedy Museum of Art, 100 Ridges Circle. 

Vincent Van Gogh has long been an influence on artists in every sense of the word. Painters, actors, authors and in this case, photographers, have felt the impact of his art over 131 years after his death. 

Johnson, who received a masters degree from Ohio University in 2004, and Lanza put together the exhibit over the past few years by retracing the steps of not only Van Gogh himself, but the influence he has had on others. 

“A lot of people are attracted to the color photographs and then other people are attracted to the black and white portraits,” Lisa Quinn, registrar of the Kennedy Museum, said. “It really has two different elements that people are intrigued by and interested in.”

“The Van Gogh Affect” both analyzes and reasserts the everlasting posthumous influence of Van Gogh on 19th, 20th and 21st century culture and art. Johnson and Lanza were able to insightfully capture the resounding emotion of Van Gogh’s particularly interesting life experience. 

Some of the photos in the exhibit are from a story Johnson did for National Geographic 25 years ago, which was titled “Lullaby in Color.” She described the collection of images as “a meditation on why we, as humans, need creativity in our core – why the art spirit is a life force that can fuel both wonder and addiction.” 

Naturally, the photos in the exhibit that were more recently taken by Johnson are black and white portraits of women who currently explore their own creativity in the same gardens and rooms that inspired Van Gogh. Lanza’s photos, which are in color, capture the exterior and interior spaces of the women’s artistic journeys. 

“It’s one woman to another that made a connection,” Quinn said. “I do feel like there is a strong connection between the photographer who is a woman and the subjects who are women.”

Johnson’s work is a big part of why staff were inspired to showcase “The Van Gogh Affect” at the Kennedy Museum. She has donated a lot of her work to Alden Library so it felt like a logical step to showcase her work. The museum staff worked with the library to start a cross campus conversation that ultimately led to the exhibit finding a temporary home on Ridges Circle. 

The exhibit creates a strong bridge between the lives of famous artists who were alive almost 200 years ago and those who are working on their craft in the modern day. In a way, Johnson and Lanza were able to photograph both the legendary artist who has passed on and the current day artist who is trying to create their own legacy. By bringing the history of the past to the present, it keeps the work of past artists alive with modern ones as the vessel to do so.

Paul Nern, a sophomore studying communications, understands the significance of Van Gogh’s work and why he is still such a distinguished figure so many years after his death. Aside from his super famous paintings like “Starry Night” and “Sunflowers,” the dark nature of some of his self portraits showcase the self-loathing that likely resulted in the removal of his own ear and his suicide. 

“Part of why I think he’s great is because of the awareness – at least posthumously – his story has given to people who are creative and artists,” Nern said. “Also being human and having really severe problems along the way.”

People like Josephine Stafford, a sophomore studying interior architecture, have been able to see the exhibit and interpret Johnson and Lanza’s work for themselves.

“I thought it was really neat,” Stafford said. “I just walked through the space and noticed that there’s a bunch of images and they correlated in different ways. It was a really neat experience.”

The exhibit has been at the Kennedy Museum of Art since Sept. 24 and will be there until March 27. 


Tate Raub

Opinion Editor

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