April 2016

Sip and Paint Van Gogh’s The Starry Night

Curator: Thomas Drymon; Co-curator: Martina Dodd


In Sip and Paint Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, 34 artists were asked to recreate the famous painting with no more direction than a size restraint and a deadline for completion. The fact that so many artists were willing to take on the task was exciting, and I am grateful that they participated with such enthusiasm.

The exhibition title was inspired by recreational painting venues that have appeared throughout the city. These creative spaces are billed as opportunities to socialize and drink while making art. Having observed these spaces and the people in them, it is unclear what the most important aspect of the experience is, but they are popular nonetheless. Each participant leaves the venue with a canvas in hand, having recreated the work the instructor provided and gained, perhaps, a greater appreciation for art-making.

With that in mind, Sip and Paint became an examination of recreational painting and the judgment we bring to this experience. All the artists were required to paint on the same size surface (with some exceptions) to conform to the end product found at the sip and paint experiences. They were also given a deadline in order to enhance the experience of painting within a finite time frame.

Since all the artists in the exhibition were painting the same thing at (or near) the same size, interesting issues arose about the perceived value of the exercise and the subsequent monetary value of their works. Artists compared themselves to others in the show and to Van Gogh himself, expressing self-doubt and frustration that was surprising. Others, of course, approached the exercise with little hesitation and a healthy dose of curiosity.

The work itself falls into a few categories: inspirational, wherein an artist painted The Starry Night but in the style of their own work; interpretational, wherein artists captured the unique qualities of Van Gogh’s painting in their work; and conceptual, wherein an artist examined the thematic idea around the commercialization and commodification of art as it relates to The Starry Night and responded with a critical eye to that.

It is not surprising that most of the works in the exhibit fall into the inspirational category. It is interesting, nonetheless, to see how these works relate to the individual artists’ ouevre. One only has to be familiar with the works by these artists to recognize their style. Surprisingly, no one tried an exact replica of the work; something I’d hoped for but did not insist upon. Conformity, an aspect of the paint and sip crowd, seemed to influence the artists who presented their work in this manner.

The works deemed representational, of which there are a handful, provide some of the most unexpected results in the exhibition. In these, it may be challenging to recognize The Starry Night outside the context of the exhibit, but the feeling the works evoke capture much of the same emotions as the original. Finally, a few works examined the commercialization and commodification of Van Gogh’s  painting and the reverence for Van Gogh and his history.

Altogether these works capture, in their own ways, the endurance of Van Gogh’s work and add value to the notion of painting for recreation.

–Thomas Drymon, curator

Participating artists include: Sondra N. Arkin, Kanchan Balse, Dwayne Butcher, Mei Mei Chang, Jim Condron, Mike Dowley, Laura Elkins, Rachel England, Mary Freedman, Pat Goslee, Tom Hill, Matt Hollis, Imar Hutchins, Wayson Jones, Andrew Judkins, Becca Kallem, Amanda Kates, Sally Kauffman, Brian Kelley, Joren A. Lindholm, Kathryn McDonnell, Dave Mordini, Melvin Nesbitt, Paul Pietsch, Matt Pinney, Devorah Romanek, Lisa K. Rosenstein, Alexandra Silverthorne, Kristy Simmons, Dafna Steinberg, Ira Tattelman, Ruth Trevarrow, Steve Wanna, Ellyn Weiss


Sip and Paint is part of DC Art Center’s curatorial initiative.

DC Arts Center

2438 18th Street NW

Washington DC 20009