If you heard about the artist Aja Trier, you’ve probably seen her painting using van Gogh’s swirling Starry Night as a motivation. While Trier continues to analyze this famous work of art for inspiration, she’s been using her insights to recreate Starry Night Dogs series.
The series imagines a world in which our beloved four-legged friends revolving in between van Gogh. Much like her previous works, each portrait features the familiar Starry Night sky, but she adds a few twists with her brushstroke style and use of colors.
Aja has been a professional, full-time artist since 2003 and started her business, Sagittarius Gallery, the same year. She went to art college at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, MA with a concentration in painting. Her fascination with Vincent van Gogh, however, started even earlier. “We had a lot of art books in the house when I was young, so I am sure the first time I saw a van Gogh was through them,” the artist told. “The first time I saw one in person was on a college trip to NYC in 2001.”
“The energy and flow of his works is what resonates with me,” she said. “The thick strokes – I love being able to see the artist’s fingerprint in the art through their mark making. You can almost follow with your eyes the movements their hand made.”
When Aja is doing a van Gogh of her own, one of the biggest challenges that she faces is drying time. “[These paintings] take forever to dry. The only other challenge is people taking the work so seriously and legit freaking out on me for ‘ripping off van Gogh.’ It’s hilarious to me, especially considering how this all came about. I think decades down the road, this will be a really funny social experiment from start to finish to recount. Maybe by then it will have come full circle and I can be an old woman who’s self proclaimed moniker is ‘(not) Mama van Gogh’ or something. I’d be alright with that.”
“I have always painted in an impressionist manner, but did not think my work looked particularly like van Gogh’s. Selling your work online, people tend to share and abbreviate what they are sharing for their audience. I had painted an Eiffel Tower piece I called “Seine” in 2011 that people started sharing on Pinterest with the caption “Eiffel Tower by van Gogh” and it spread like wild fire.”
Aja tried correcting people, but when things are disseminated to such an extent, it’s impossible to catch them all. “One day I came across an French educational blog that had an article on Vincent van Gogh that was advertising a trip around Paris to see some van Gogh works and locations – and there my painting was,” she continued. “It was mind boggling. Especially since it’s damn near impossible for van Gogh to have painted a finished Eiffel tower. He had moved to the south of France on February 20, 1888, well before the tower was completed. He never returned to Paris. The Tower wasn’t completed until March 1, 1889. I’d told people this previously when they would insist van Gogh painted my painting – but when I saw this French educational site touting my painting as a van Gogh, it prompted me to start my van Gogh Never series of pieces, showcasing things van Gogh never saw.”
It was a game, Aja said, a dare. “I wanted to see what people would actually believe van Gogh painted and reshare it as such. I never pretended to be van Gogh. I still don’t think my work looks like van Gogh. The whole thing exploded out of what really was a joke. I even had a paint party studio not two miles away from me schedule a paint night with that painting and get into an email argument with me when I contacted them to let them know it wasn’t a van Gogh, it was mine. ‘Oh, so I guess you’re van Gogh, huh?’ was literally their retort. I’ve had people scoff and state “someone mistook it for van Gogh? I’ll take things that never happened for 500, Alex.” And that’s fair – I don’t think my almost neon hued, larger stroke, palette knife paintings look like van Gogh’s, either. But it’s what happened.”