There was a time when I could produce a reasonable copy of a famous Van Gogh self-portrait from memory. I was drawing a lot then, and I became preoccupied with the bold lines and wild-staring eyes of the artist’s face, the bewilderment and seriousness, and maybe even the anger. Thirty years later, I can still just about do the nose and eyes.
Van Gogh’s life parallels, loosely, the beginning of cycling history. I don’t know that he ever rode one, and I don’t think, when I first became fascinated by his work, that I had any real sense of how it might remain relevant in my life beyond those teen years of disillusionment and the active seeking of anti-heroes to populate my creative universe.
Without putting a shovel into the deep soil of posthumous Van Gogh analysis, what I will say is that he was a guy who saw the world differently, who stayed true to his vision despite its obvious lack of popular support, and who was ruled by strong passions. For me, those are all positive attributes.
For a cyclist, the idea that we might not finish a ride (our vision of the day or days on the bike) is anathema. We ride to see the world in a different, better way. It stirs passions, strong and deep. We, most of us, turn to cycling as a reaction to our world, a way to push back against the forces of constraint, lethargy, apathy, stress, and responsibility.
These are trying times for sure, both in the larger world and in the sport of cycling, and I find myself turning more and more to art for some relief from all of the above. I find it expresses my feelings in a less conflicting way than prose does, and inspires me to seek out creative outlets for myself or even, occasionally, a bike ride.
Let’s not talk about cycling art without acknowledging our deep debt of gratitude to Bill Cass, creator of RKP t-shirts and posters. Bill’s art captures the movement and joy of cycling in a unique way.
Photography is another good go to. I was on the phone with Radio Freddy the other day and he clued me into a few classic cycling Instagram accounts that fill my feed with inspiration, too. Try out: On the Back Foot, Peace Love and Mungbean, and Het Kleinste Wielermuseum.
We also like The Monuments work done by the Handmade Cyclist. The only question is, how much wall space can you reasonably devote to cycling art? The answer is some N+1 analog for certain.
This week’s Group Ride asks, what cycling art do you love? What inspires you? Give us examples and give us links. Or, does this stuff bore you? You prefer the black and white of print, the asphalt and sand of the real road.