This past weekend my wife, daughter and I went to the Newfields Art Museum to take in the incredible digital experience featuring the artwork of Vincent Van Gogh. It took place in the LUME Indianapolis and it’s hard to adequately describe. You follow the crowd of people who are about to experience this with you. Slowly, you inch up three floors of escalators which only makes the anticipation of what is ahead grow. Your tickets are scanned on your phone and then you enter a vast expanse that covers almost an entire floor of the museum.Classical music starts to play and wrap around you as the first images come to life. The story of Van Gogh is displayed in words on various screens that tower over you. What is different with this art installation from any other I have experienced is that every surface is covered in color, imagery, and movement. Your eyes can’t keep up with all that is around you. The paintings of Van Gogh wrap around you and you are “inside” them. You see people take pictures of themselves fully covered in a mixture of blues, yellows, greens, whites, and reds. When his famous sunflowers come up people look like a field of wallpaper that blots out their outfits.
The response of people as they took in all that was happening ranged from elation to disbelief to boredom. I hate to say that, but it’s like any experience. You can’t get everyone to enjoy what they’re going through. Some seemed like they were there for their partner/spouse and that support was appreciated even if they didn’t get lost in the art. My wife, daughter and I were lost completely. We didn’t even know the other person was in the room. I turned around to point something out and saw that they were taking in something that caught their attention. I didn’t want to shape or influence their experience. I knew we would share later what captured our attention.
One of the biographical pieces that came up on the screen was that Van Gogh was incredibly prolific and he created 2,000 drawings and pictures the last 10 years of his life. Keep in mind that he unfortunately only lived to be 37 years old. He also had mental health struggles in the midst of his immense creative output. It’s quite remarkable. It’s as if he couldn’t keep up with all that was flowing from him. He was as fully immersed in his art as much as we were surrounded by it at the exhibit.
His art is still so moving 130 years after his death. That is fascinating to comprehend. We wonder if the work we’re doing in HR sometimes has an impact at all, don’t we?
I think we can take a lesson from this exhibit and from the artist. If we would quit viewing ourselves as “practitioners,” we could take on the mantle of fully immersing ourselves in our profession, our roles and our organizations. Trust me when I tell you that when you see HR all around you, then you no longer see what you do as a job. I have tried to do this for years. It may seem a bit odd, but I think that every aspect of my life can be applied to the “art” I get to create as an HR professional.
This week, take a look at how you view what you do and how you see yourself. Are you only practicing HR? If so, pick up your brushes, find a canvas and immerse yourself. Don’t settle as an observer. Become the artist you were destined to be. You’ll be pleased at what starts to come to life !!