Lynn Johnson and Patricia Lanza’s Van Gogh Affect
This touring exhibition on view at Leica Gallery in Los Angeles through January 13, 2020 highlights the profound influence of Van Gogh’s work on contemporary perception of the world by focusing on the final few years of his life as well as the story of his work following his death.
Johnson and Lanza traveled along Van Gogh’s footsteps throughout Europe in order to capture public and private spaces as well as artifacts from the artist’s career that are not usually accessible for public viewing. The photographers’ approaches lend themselves to thinking of the work on the continuum of time and the investigation of light.
Johnson’s work plays with the time continuum, with images from 23 years ago and current day, as well as more dreamlike, out-of-time images. Johnson’s meditation on time, at the asylum at St. Paul de Mausole, Saint Remy, France is a metaphor for how we understand history – some stories become legendary, while others are not widely known, lost or forgotten.
“In this exhibit, I chose to concentrate on today’s patients in St Paul’s Asylum, which is now exclusively for women. Here, 130 years ago, Van Gogh sought help for his mental illness. The women here are very aware of the connection between creativity and mental health. They paint, not as therapy, but to discover and confirm their identities, unmoored by trauma or biology. The power of having a Leica to capture the photos of these women is that the camera makes you want to stay—stay in the moment, stay in the lives of the people you are documenting, and stay true to the message of their story,” states Johnson.
Meanwhile, Lanza’s work explores the continuum of light and color which is essential to van Gogh’s work, particularly the color yellow and its symbolism for the artist.
“Traveling and working in France fostered one of the most prolific periods of Van Gogh’s life. In a very short time, he produced hundreds of oil paintings and drawings, indeed some of his finest masterpieces, including Irises, Starry Night and Almond Blossoms. By following his path – the route of the sun across France – I sought to capture with a camera what Van Gogh dreamed on canvas,” noted Lanza.
Through these explorations of time and light, there is an undercurrent that infuses an energy to the work. From van Gogh’s path of following the light or the artists at the asylum searching for their next now, the creative process is essential to identity.