UNL art students recreate Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Bedroom’

By CORY MATTESON | Lincoln Journal Star

University of Nebraska at Lincoln’s Richards Hall houses a ceramics workshop, a fabrication space and the one-room Medici Gallery reserved for student work. The closest thing to a study lounge, however, is a couch in the hallway.

Haley Heesacker, 26, saw an opportunity to provide fellow fine arts students with a temporary study space, one that lends itself to learning about the classics.

Last week, she and fellow arts student Michael Johnson unveiled an exhibit that combines fine art and functionality into a potentially great study space—or Instagram post, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

The two members of the Sits and Giggles collective created a 3-D rendition of “Bedroom in Arles,” the broad-lined, distinctly colored painting by Vincent Van Gogh of his own sleeping quarters.

Beginning in 1888, Van Gogh painted three similar versions of his sparsely furnished bedroom in oil on canvas.

Before their exhibit debuted, Johnson and Heesacker spent three nearly sleepless days in toil on campus. The two converted a checklist of EcoStore and Goodwill finds into a re-creation of the famed bedroom that, Van Gogh wrote, “ought to rest the brain, or rather the imagination.”

Heesacker said she wanted to create a series of sculptural environments that weren’t hands-off to visitors.

Getting too close to the “Bedroom in Arles” at the Art Institute of Chicago might get you Tasered. But sitting in the chairs painted the “yellow of fresh butter” — Van Gogh’s words again — gets you the adoration of Johnson and Heesacker.

“We wanted people to be able to go and interact with it,” said Johnson, 20.

The first day that “A Visit with Vincent” was up in the Medici, Heesacker said she saw a guy sitting on the tiny bed with his laptop open and papers scattered on the floor.

“I was ecstatic,” she said.

She considered asking him to put on the straw hat that hangs alongside Van Gogh’s denims in the painting’s background and on the Medici Gallery’s north wall, but settled for snapping a picture.

So have many others who have visited the 3-D bedroom. Since it was unveiled, the room has been the backdrop for many cellphone photos. There’s a hashtag for it on Instagram — (hash)SNGGogh. Many pictures have been taken by art students, but Heesacker’s favorites so far have been taken by total strangers. 

“I don’t even know who these people are, which is super cool,” Heesacker said. “They were like pretending to have a pillow fight.”

The Sits and Giggles crew ((at)sitsandgiggles on Instagram) have plans to build more 3-D rooms throughout the school year. They began with a Van Gogh because it was the most recognizable image they wanted to recreate, Heesacker said.

“We’ve got some kind of crazy ones we want to try out later in the year,” Johnson said.

For now, they’ll continue to see how others spend time in Van Gogh’s bedroom.