“To me Van Gogh is the finest painter of them all. Certainly the most popular, great painter of all time. The most beloved, his command of colour most magnificent. He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray, but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world, no one had ever done it before. Perhaps no one ever will again. To my mind, that strange, wild man who roamed the fields of Provence was not only the world’s greatest artist, but also one of the greatest men who ever lived.”
Doctor Who , Season 5 Episode 10 ,Vincent
Vincent Willem van Gogh ( 30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) was a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter who is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. In just over a decade he created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of them in the last two years of his life in France, where he died. They include landscapes, still lifes, portraits and self-portraits, and are characterised by bold colours and dramatic, impulsive and expressive brushwork that contributed to the foundations of modern art. His suicide at 37 followed years of mental illness and poverty.
Van Gogh suffered from psychotic episodes and delusions and though he worried about his mental stability, he often neglected his physical health. His friendship with Gauguin ended after a confrontation with a razor, when in a rage, he severed part of his own left ear. He spent time in psychiatric hospitals, including a period at Saint-Rémy. After he discharged himself he came under the care of the homeopathic doctor Paul Gachet. His depression continued and on 27 July 1890, Van Gogh shot himself in the chest with a revolver. He died from his injuries two days later.
“With Satine, we needed to make it clear that this is the most beautiful woman in Paris. Admittedly, Nicole is already very beautiful, but she may not be everybody’s idea of ideal beauty, so we needed to make it clear with the costumes’ signs and symbols that that’s who she was. We looked to Hollywood’s glamour heroines like Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo - all sexually available to the men in the movies but emotionally very unavailable, and we looked at how that manifested itself in their clothing. Their wardrobes tended to be very graphic, unfussy, dramatic in their colour choice. We then used that.” - Catherine Martin(costume designer for Moulin Rouge!)
This morning I was thinking about the LGBT+ community I know vs the LGBT+ community now, and something dawned on me. The LGBT+ community doesn’t respect its predecessors. Gay culture has changed drastically over the last 10 years, and I’m okay with us moving forward naturally with what people within the community naturally want - I’m not okay with us shitting on the past, erasing the past, degrading the past, as we do so.
The LGBT+ flag is topical so I’m going to start there. During the aids crisis, we never gave up. People were faced with something that was killing them on a biological level, and they said “Fuck you”. People had “going away” parties after being diagnosed where they would go out and drink and drink and drink, not going home for days, they would kill themselves because they didn’t want to let aids have the last say - they said “Fuck you, I control my life, I control when I die”. Other people, even some of the first to be diagnosed while they were still giving out numbers with each new diagnosis, are still alive today - they said “Fuck you, I’m going to take everything I can and do everything I can, you are not taking me, bitch”. We added a black line for those people. And now people think that those struggles don’t deserve that colour any more, that instead of using the pride flags they already have for the intersection of race and LGBT+ issues, they can appropriate all of those deaths.
Punks and rockers in the 70s and 80s stood by gay people, we shared our fashion sense and our flare for the dramatic, bright hair colours and clothes that stood out. Punks and rockers got beaten up for being presumed gay. The leather and spikes in the metal community were popularized because gay artists in that community wore those things on stage - it came from gay culture. And now those very bands and communities have to constantly remind people that they’re left-leaning, that they’re for gay rights, that they’re against systems of power - because somewhere down the line someone decided that gay culture was now flower crowns and unicorns, and that the other subcultures have been against us all along.
Drag queens and leather and revealing clothes are constantly pictured online with captions saying that they’re inappropriate at Pride. Fucking Pride - a protest, a party, a celebration of all of the wild and wonderful aspects that we incorporated into our culture when we said “We’re outside of the norm and so are you, so lets rock it together”. They were our body guards, they took the brunt of the insults and violence while those who were afraid hung back and looked “normal”. They are our history. They are the communities we stood with because we all understood what it was like to be ostracized and judged, and we accepted each other, and we became stronger together. Pride is a protest and a party in one, it’s not a safe space, it was never supposed to be - and if you’re okay with a woman wearing nothing but a lacy thong and marching at a Free The Nipple protest with “Slut” on her chest in permanent marker, as I see so many of the people who decry Pride outfits celebrating, it’s a giant fucking double standard to not be okay with revealing outfits at Pride. If you’re okay with someone dressed as a slutty unicorn at a Slut Walk, then why aren’t you okay with leather short shorts and a leash at Pride?
And alcohol!? People complaining about the alcohol in the gay community are so utterly unaware of our history. Gay bars were our first real “Safe Spaces”, Harvey Milk and other incredible gay activists rose to popularity partially because of their incredible personalities, their parties, their fun and kind nature, how they welcomed people in and offered them drinks and fun and friendship with no question. Our history is full to the brim with proof that being fun and exciting and rebellious was what drew people to us.
And the one that grinds my gears the most is slurs - is how everyone is so quick to be offended by words. That’s not what the gay community has ever stood for. The film “Pride” said it best when it said that when we’re called a name, we take it and we run with it. The “Pits and Perverts” concert happened because the newspapers called us perverts and we said “That’s catchy”. You can’t take away people’s power by giving that word all of the power and then saying that only bad people can use it, only people that hate you can use it - because now the word means “I hate you, I have power over you, you disgust me” - you take their power by making the word meaningless, by taking the word and going “ours now”. That was one of the staples of the LGBT+ community, a motto that we all lived by. But now people talk about how those words have “always been used to oppress us”, as if that never happened.
Y'all act like you want the world to think that LGBT+ people are pastel coloured, young, innocent, harmless angels - we’re rebels, we bring the fun, we bring the energy, we fight to the death and we’ve won over and over and over again; we wear our hair big and bright, we wear our labels on our chest, not because we want to ~normalize~ and ~raise awareness~ but because we’re daring the world to fucking try it, because we’re saying to the homophobes “I’m not scared of you” and we’re taking their power and their words. This modern LGBT+ community isn’t doing that, it’s screaming “Think of the children!” like the conservatives of old, it’s insisting that we’re quaint, middle class, and “just like you”, instead of “Fuck you we don’t have to conform”. It’s becoming what we fought, it’s turning on its own members, past and present, for engaging in parts of our culture and our history.
“Do you want to see?” Victor asks as Yuuri pulls on his sweater and grabs his glasses. Yuuri nods his head, crossing over to view the portrait.
Yuuri’s torso takes up the entire canvas and it looks like he is dripping with watercolors. A hue of reds and yellows and greens outline his body, while violets and blues and every color in between form the shadows on Yuuri’s body and outlines the firmness in his arms and his ribcage. Yuuri’s expression in the painting is placid, eyes shut and the length of his eyelashes slightly exaggerated. The rosiness of his cheeks is prominent, and his red lips are slightly parted as if Yuuri is breathing out a heavy sigh and his body just melts from it.
Yuuri is brushing his fingertips over his own lips, possibly wondering if he actually looked like this.