Cheryl Strayed recently celebrated her birthday, and I decided to make her birthday envelopes. I wanted to make her a gift because her Dear Sugar columns and her two books light up my life. To view the envelopes, go here.
I chose van Gogh for the birthday envelopes because of one of her Dear Sugar columns. In Tiny Beautiful Things, “I Chose van Gogh” appears as its own column. On The Rumpus, it appears with other letters and responses. Read the column here.
She said, “I could allow myself to be influenced by three men who screwed me against my will or I could allow myself to be influenced by van Gogh. I chose van Gogh.”I never forgot that. I think of that phrase I chose van Gogh whenever I’m having trouble lifting my own head up.
I have a van Gogh art book because my father bought it for me. Actually, I started making envelopes to process my complicated relationship with my father. Read my artist statement here.
After the day that I could not finish packing my father’s books, those bargain books that he bought took on a new meaning. I began to view each one of those bargain books as a reminder that he was ill. He was ill and he was not getting better and he would never get better. In fact, he would only get worse. These were the facts and I did not much like to think about them, so I put the bargain books that he had given me in places where I would not see them.
When I opened the van Gogh book, I saw an inscription he wrote me. I guess he gave the book to me as a Valentine’s Day gift, which is strange because I just wrote an essay about a Valentine’s Day. Synchronicity, I guess.