Sunflowers

Nov 26

Sunflowers

The Fall Semester of 2012 at USF-St. Petersburg will always hold a special place in my heart. Two key events converged during this momentous time of my matriculation: I was a newlywed, and I was back in a college classroom for the first time in many, many moons. I have always dreamed of pursuing an art history degree; my new husband was (and remains) a big fan of that plan. My path began in the most perfect of ways: a full semester about the myths and works of Vincent van Gogh, taught with much fervor and knowledge by Professor Sheramy Bundrick.

The Sower – 1888 My personal favorite.

(Side Note: Her name alone is worth a mint. Spencer surely enjoyed my weekly singing, after every class, “Sheramy spoke in………….class today.” Eddie Vedder has nothing on me.) I learned so much from Professor Bundrick. She encouraged me through some nervous Nelly times. I have never enjoyed a class so immensely, and I have never learned so much about one artist. I fell a little bit in love with that guy. Also, I cried like a giant baby when the class watched the Doctor Who episode (Vincent and The Doctor). Nothing says “cool” like crying in public amidst a room full of twenty year old art majors.

Lucky gal that I am, Professor Bundrick wrote a historical fiction novel entitled Sunflowers. She adeptly weaves an imaginary love story between Vincent and Rachel. All history remembers of Rachel is that she was the lucky prostitute who Vincent handed his severed ear chunk to, with a solemn “You will remember me”.  Bundrick takes the seed of the character Rachel, and constructs a complex, lonely, caring girl who just wants what we all want: to be loved.  The story focuses mainly on Vincent’s time in Arles. This time was an interesting dichotomy, as it was one of his most tumultuous and also highly prolific periods. Van Gogh had high hopes moving to the south of France. He had dreams of building a “Studio of the South” and enticing other artists to live and work together. Sadly for van Gogh, the only taker was Paul Gauguin. Their personalities were toxic together, and the experiences they had played a crucial role in the downward spiral of Vincent’s mental health.

Professor Bundrick does not focus on the ear incident; she focuses on the genius and passion instead. She also begins each chapter with a portion of actual letters; I have read countless letters to and from van Gogh, she captures his personality perfectly.  She must be a very good teacher, indeed, as I was able to picture all of the paintings she described.

My signed copy.

Academically, it was one of the best times of my life. Personally, I will cherish those Wednesday nights at the genesis of my marriage. As an art appreciator, I am forever changed.

2 comments

  1. I’m sure glad you have made the first step returning to college to pursue your dream. A great journey begins with one step. Sounds as if it was a wonderful 1st step.

  2. Sandwich Gal /

    It was a profound step, in many ways. Thanks for the encouragement! 🙂

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