Starry Night's Dream

   by Ann Soto for Re-Invent a Work of Art (2013)

Inspiration Piece: The Starry Night

Inspiration Artist: Vincent Van Gogh

Starry Night’s Dream by Ann E Soto is based on the Vincent Van Gogh painting, “The Starry Night,” painted in 1889.

My original concept was to illustrate the way I would see “The Starry Night,” from the window of “Van Gogh’s Bedroom.” I completed building the room w/windows that opened & towel on the wall. I painted it to reflect Van Gogh’s version of his room. However, upon seeing that too much of “The Starry Night” reinterpretation would be blocked from view by the wall, I repurposed the cardboard to be the base of the finished work.

All paint used was acrylic artist paint, paint pens, or spray paint. Obvious painted elements can be seen in my techniques video, so I will only describe the painting that is not obvious. The “Mystery Box Kit” provided all other materials used. I used my heated air gun to melt the hot glue. I cut the hardwood veneer with a razor edge. I will refer to modeling clay as “clay.” Most of the raw edges of the corrugated cardboard are filled in w/clay for a finished look. The dark colorings on the cut hardwood are from saw burns. All gluing was done with Elmer’s Glue unless otherwise stated.

The chair was built by cutting dowel rods to form the back & legs of the chair. I used the glue to attached the cross members & the seatback slats (cut from a larger blocks of wood) to the legs, back, & to form the chair-seat frame. I used the newsprint strips & glue to reinforce some of the joints. I untwisted the length of rope & used some of the resulting twine to weave the chair-seat.

The bedposts are cut from hardwood. The top, bottom, & side crossbeams are cut out of plywood. The inside of the head & footboards are cut from a thin sheet of hardwood. I made the bedspread by forming a mold out of the clay & basket weaving the newsprint strips using glue to hold the paper together. The glue helped the paper to remain in the shape of the mold. I trimmed the excess paper. I made the pillows in much the same way by making two halves, trimming them & then gluing the halves together. I made the bed sheets by the same method. I assembled the bed w/glue.

The sky backdrop was made by cutting the canvas panel into 4 equal pieces. I used 2 thin pieces of hardwood, unaltered. I cut 4 small connector pieces from hardwood veneer. Those pieces became the face of the sky. I made brackets by cutting the cardboard into convex & concave pieces, which I glued together for added strength. I glued the brackets to the back of the sky face. Once the top & bottom halves were dry, I melted chunks of hot glue w/heat gun to connect the 2 together. I used glue to cover the brackets w/newsprint strips. On the front, I added 3D elements. The crescent moon is cut out of the floral foam, covered w/newsprint strips & glue. I cut full/partial circles from cardboard & glued them together to make the raised stars. I glued the 3D pieces to the face of the sky.

The Italian Cypress is made of wire w/newsprint strips wrapped around it, loosely, & secured w/glue. I glued the large piece of cypress into a groove made in a piece of hardwood. The small pieces were glued between pieces of wood to the larger piece. The bush next to the cypress is a made from frayed circles of canvas, sewn together using a thread from the canvas & glued to strengthen the bond. I glued it to the base w/hot glue.

The sky’s stand was made from the box lid. I glued newsprint strips across the open side to keep it stable. I turned the back end flaps 90º to the base & glued cut plywood to it. To keep the plywood square to the base, I used a piece of the rope twine to thread through a hole that I punched in each flap. Twine stays in place by a knot at each end. I glued the stand to the sky panel.

The clouds are made from wire, bent into circles & held closed by newsprint strips & glue. They are linked by the same method. The overlapping parts were wrapped w/newsprint strips, paper mache style using glue as paste. I used clay to smooth those areas & spray painted it all silver. The back layer of clouds was held to the sky panel by gluing the wire into a groove made in the edge of plywood that was cut & glued to the bottom of the sky. I spray painted part of the instruction sheet & hole punched out circles. Also, I traced circles onto the printed sky portion of the instruction sheet & cut those out. I painted some. The circles are attached to the wire using glue. The front layer of clouds is made the same way, but the overlaps were covered with the skeletal remains from the hole punch. To connect the front layer to the sky panels, I fashioned 3 wire springs that I glued to the backside of the front clouds using hot glue. I forced the other end of the springs onto the sky panels, securing them with hot glue on the backside. More circles made from the polymer clay were baked, painted & glued to the cloud rings.

The houses were made of solid pieces of hardwood and/or glued hardwood veneer. They were glued to other parts of the sculpture.

The church steeple is a dowel rod that I whittled down at one end & then sanded to a point. I glued that to a small wooden box made of the hardwood veneer & glue. I wound newsprint strips around the lower part of the dowel rod, allowing it to flare out to attach to the box securing w/glue. The church building is built out of cardboard & wood veneer, cut to size. The pieces were glued together, & then glued to the bed headboard.

The land/base of the artwork holds the sculpture together. I cut away parts of the cardboard sides & cut the front section into a half circle. I glued the back end to the sky’s base. I glued canvas grass to the edges.

The hills are made of clay snakes on cardboard. At first, I held the snakes in place w/newsprint strips & glue. Fearing I would run out of glue & paper, I decided to just adhere the clay to the cardboard by mashing the edges down. The results were superior so I attached new snakes atop the paper mache ones to match. Layers of hills are glued together. The hills are glued to the base. They are held upright by attaching them to the clouds or by clay spacers behind them.

The halo behind the church is made of rings of wire, covered w/clay. Newsprint strips are glued onto clay. It is held in place by clay that is painted black.

The Trees are made of a floral foam core, covered with the newsprint strips around the rim, & secured w/glue. Some of the trees’ flat surfaces are covered w/newsprint strips & some w/circles cut from the instruction sheet. All sides are glued to the rim & trimmed with scissors. The circles designs on the discs were made w/paint pens. Wire strings the trees together w/glue between each tree. The stringed trees are secure to the cardboard hills with wire. The rest of the trees were hot glued to the houses.

The dream trees are constructed the same way as the trees. I cut wire to have pointed ends; spray painted those white & I pushed the wire through the rims of the tree discs. Tree discs are confined w/plastic pellets molded onto the wire against both sides of the disc. One end of the wire is glued into drilled holes in the wooden painted fields on the right. The other end is threaded through or into the red bedspread.

The grassland/farmlands are made of frayed canvas strips glued between pieces of cardboard. Gluing loose canvas threads between 2 pieces of cardboard makes other grass. The yellow row is made w/painted newsprint strips, looping them & gluing them to the canvas grass. I cut a block of hardwood into wavy lengths. I used paint pens to make the surface circles. I glued strips of canvas grass to both sides of the back left piece of wood. I hot glued it to the grass that was already made. I cut bushes out of floral foam. I hot glued these to the grasslands. I enclosed wire in 2 canvas grass pieces w/glue & hot glued that to the front left painted wood. Yellow newsprint strips were looped & glued to that. These components were glued to the base.

The village land is the black painted cardboard base. Circles are painted on it. Other circles are made from clay pressed into a circle template onto the instruction sheet & cut out with scissors. The paper side was painted & the clay side was stuck to the art base.

The dreaming woman is constructed using wire armature covered w/polymer clay. I baked the clay in progressive layers. The hair is made of canvas strings coated w/polymer clay, then curling & curing with a curling iron. Hair is attached to the body w/more polymer clay & baked. The ends of the hair were spray painted black & then highlighted by hand w/blue paint. I glued the figure to the bed.

I visited the MoMA during its temporary residence in Queens, NY. I had never seen such a complete collection of work that represented the epitome of so many historic artists in one spot. I was excited to see “The Starry Night” which had, always, caught my imagination. Upon seeing the piece and it’s many specs of empty canvas, I was fascinated that a piece of work that seemed to have so many ‘imperfections’ in the original form was so iconic; still, I was swept away with the rich colors & the expressive gestural brush strokes. However, I do love Van Gogh’s work; it is optimistic & peaceful and has influenced much of my work. Even though I questioned how I could possibly pick a favorite work of art, I was drawn to Van Gogh and “The Starry Night” as my choice.