Immersed in Van Gogh

Today, I spent with my youngest grand daughter Jenna. A few months ago we agreed to take a day to visit the Art Institute to see the Van Gogh exhibit. We had missed the Monet show because of the COVID shutdown, and vowed to see the next one. In my mind we would go to the famous Chicago Art Institute, find the room with the Van Gogh exhibit, ogle the paintings for a while and come home. Life treated me to a giant surprise when I visited the A.I website without finding the show. Instead my trusty computer led to something called “Immersive Van Gogh.” I popped the $131.98 for two Premium tickets and printed them out. I had no clue as what was meant by Immersive except that it is something like jumping into a pool and are covered with water. That is exactly what it was. We were completely covered head to toe in Van Gogh artwork.

The Germania Building competed in 1889 is a Chicago landmark located at the south edge of Lincoln Park. I never knew it existed, nor have I ever want to know it existed. Evidently it was built by German immigrants as a place to hang out. There were so many of them they could afford to pay for this elaborate building. Based on the entry fee charged of people like me going there to visit Immersive Van Gogh, I’d say the owner recovered his cost for the building.

The most adventurous part of our trip to the Germania was finding parking. That part of town consists of streets that never see the sun because they are in the shadow of high rise apartment and condo buildings. Street parking is almost non-existent but there are cars parked all along the streets. We finally found an obscure hotel at 1325 North Astor Street with parking on the third loop around the neighborhood. It was a beautiful morning to take a walk.

We arrived at the entrance to the Germania, now renamed the Lighthouse ArtSpace, at 10:00 a.m. sharp. It took another ten minutes to negotiate the lobby, gift shop and the ticket taker to get into the immersion. The show was in progress. The grand ballroom of the Germania was painted solid white, walls, floor, ceiling. Somewhere hidden in the woodwork there were a myriad of projectors pointed such that we sat in a 360 degree orabal screen. As far as sitting went, there was seating for about a couple dozen people in a room that held several hundred. At the ticket desk we were handed a cushion which came with the premium ticket. We sat of the floor atop the cushion. Aside from hearing my joints crackle when getting into a yoga position the pictures were accompanied by a musical score.

I have to admit that even though I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see Van Gogh’s original works, but what I saw was something magical. His works in their full glory magnified beyond a wild imagination were also animated. The seeds cores for the Sun Flowers were rotating spirally, as were the stars in Starry Night. The gulls in a shore scene were flapping their wings as they flew out over the water. The reflection of shore lights on the bay next to a village twinkled as did the stars above. In the few of his works that I have seen I never realized the amount of detail that he put into the humans that worked the fields, but magnified to several times life size it was clear that the man had a talent for human form.

I thought to myself that we were seeing not just the works of a great Dutch Impressionist but of a great digitalizer. The work that went into creating the animation, the fades in and out, the transitions from one painting to the next all took a huge amount of creative energy as well as technical ability. We were truly immersed, and then suddenly the credits appeared and the showing was over. I looked at my watch it was ten-thirty. We got up from the floor, waited until a seat was free and sat to we watch the whole thing again. The engineer in me calculated that the $0.0366 per second that we were entertained was worth it.

The walk back to our car was taken at a leisurely stroll but seemed to be much shorter than the hurried one at the beginning. We people watched the residents walking their dogs, running, bicycling, carrying plastic shopping bags with food purchased from God knows where, and some just sitting on a stoop enjoying the morning sun.

I took a scenic way to the interstate and gave Jenna a quick tour of the Gold Coast neighborhood, Rush Street, the Magnificent Mile, Millennium Park, the real Art Institute, the Museum Campus, a very brief stint on the Outer Drive, and finally onto I-57 where we literally flew home.

We pulled into Frankfort to find the town loaded with people and cars. Luckily, I parked within a block of Fat Rosies Taco and Tequila Bar. The hostess seated us immediately on the rear patio. Together we polished off three tacos apiece along with a generous scoop of refried beans and fried rice. KETO be damned, I don’t lunch with my baby girl often.

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