Bright Harbor Healthcare

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Starry Night

Ms. Kara Armellino/ Instructional Paraprofessional 

The connection between art and science has always inspired me.  Artists and scientists share a similar curiosity of the world and approach their subjects with the same open mind.  Artists were inventing, dissecting and theorizing alongside scientists for as long as art was being created.  The Greek sculptors perfected their understanding and portrayal of human anatomy while DaVinci created fantastical inventions and anatomical illustrations that are still used today.  Artists have always been some of the world’s best observers and one recurring subject that has consistently fascinated artists is the sky.  While some artists captured scientifically accurate portrayals of the world intentionally, one artist, during a turbulent time in his life, was able to accurately “represent one of the most supremely difficult concepts nature has ever brought before mankind.”  This particular artist’s name, because of his masterpiece, has become synonymous with the subject of the night sky.  This artist is Vincent Van Gogh and his masterpiece that “shed light on the concept of turbulent flow in fluid dynamics” is the beloved painting Starry Night.

In our Art History class, students created their own paintings based on Van Gogh’s starry masterwork.  It is a painting they had all seen before but never saw for it’s true achievement. To give them inspiration and a new perspective on a familiar work, students were shown a video about the scientific accuracy of Starry Night.  It speaks about how “at the peak of his lifelong struggle with mental illness, he created the legendary painting while staying at the mental asylum into which he had voluntarily checked himself into after mutilating his own ear.”  Those familiar swirls and stars or “eddies” in Starry Night are showing a previously unsolved problem in physics: turbulent flow. This concept of “big eddies transferring their energy to smaller eddies” is what students were asked to capture in their paintings.

Artists don’t fit into any particular box and are some of the most versatile and resilient types people.  Van Gogh is a perfect example of how someone could take a difficult time and translate pain into beauty.  Even while experiencing personal strife, Van Gogh was still able to be so attentive to the world around him that he was able to unknowingly depict one of the most difficult concepts in science.  By introducing students to Van Gogh’s personal history and what he was able to achieve despite his mental struggles, students were able to see one of the most familiar works of art from a new perspective and with a greater appreciation.