I made my art the way I lived my life—fast, unpredictable, and usually wielding a knife. Whether history calls me an iconoclast, a visionary, or a madman, just know that I was razor-focused on a single artistic goal:
Painting the shit out of sunflowers so that they’d look completely kickass on a pair of socks for your mother-in-law.
I may have been a penniless, desperately depressed artistic genius in nineteenth-century France, but in my soul, I was a one-man merch machine.
There’s not a single piece in my oeuvre I didn’t paint to moeuvre, my friends. There’s not a single composition in my catalog for which I didn’t crave a commemorative calendar.
Is that alliterative on purpose? You bet your sweet patootie.
Give me your ties, your planters, your huddled bathmats yearning to be “buy one, get one free” in the clearance section of a Bed Bath & Beyond. Emblazon them with my irises. Smother them with my intimate nighttime cafés.
And don’t forget my self-portraits—especially the one where my face is bandaged because I cut off my ear. That’s a moment in my life that cries out for worldwide distribution. I always meant for it to show up on jokey stationery with the tagline “I Can’t EAR You, Please Write a Note!”
Hilarious. And one thousand percent what I intended.
Say what you will about my groundbreaking techniques. Laud the way my images breathe with life and vitality. Praise my mastery of texture and form, my thickly-layered canvases that could take decades, even centuries, to dry completely—
That was deliberate, by the way. When I painted those entrancing swirls into The Starry Night, I made the paint as thicc as possible. I wanted my work to reach peak beauty just in time to be printed on a pair of silk boxer shorts.
Why else would I have included that cypress—the phallus of trees—and angled it a little to the left (in a way that is totally normal and okay) as it seductively penetrated the night sky?
I knew exactly what I was doing, and I have zero regrets.
After all, I have been quoted as saying that “great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” The particular small thing on which that quote appears is a refrigerator magnet. You can buy it at the MoMA store. But small things could also be notecards, keychains, or polyester scarves. They could be bookmarks or tins full of breath mints.
It’s not my place, as a dead artist, to micromanage your swag. Just please make sure it’s mass-produced and perfect for a dentist’s office.
But you can think even bigger than dentists. The palette of my life’s work was rich and saturated with every color of my pain. When I knifed those globs of paint onto canvas, I knew how awesome that shit would look projected onto the interior walls of a conference center that smells like a Sbarro’s.
When I died in penury, I thought about the fifty smackers each person would pay to walk through that conference center, immersing themselves in three-dimensional paintings that witnessed my plunge into existential despair.
And I smiled. Because when life brings rain, you can let a smile be your umbrella. And an umbrella will make that conference center’s gift shop $39.99 richer if it’s shellacked with blurry reproductions of works I poured my heart and soul into.
If you can think of a greater achievement than that—a greater dream to which an artist can aspire—please tell me. I’m all ears.