The story behind the “Starry Night” replica

By Billy Liu

Summer heat lost ground to autumnal wind in a downpour, which brought clouds that obscured the night. However, as the Lawrence International Fall Formal drew nearer last week, another “Starry Night” was taking shape on the fourth floor of the Warch Campus Center. This backdrop for the photo booth, an enlarged-to-scale replica of Van Gogh’s famous “Starry Night,” drew gasps from attendees on Friday, Oct. 2. The Lawrentian sought out the artist behind the stars, sophomore Juliana Olsen-Valdez.

Olsen-Valdez was immersed in art early on. “Art has been a part of my life for a long time,” she said. As a daughter of an artist who is also an art teacher, Olsen-Valdez views her relationship to art as a natural part of her. “I didn’t really take up the skill of artistry or the hobby,” she said. “I don’t have a lot of time for art, either. When I do, it’s usually nice and enjoyable: something that comes out of blue, [something] that you can spend a little time on.”

Such is the replica of “Starry Night.” Approximately nine feet long and six feet wide, the painting spread over two strips of black paper. Olsen-Valdez penciled down the enlarged sketch and, with occasional help from other Lawrence International (LI) board members, she finished brushing the self-mixed colors down on paper on two separate evenings.

When asked about her past experiences, she replied that this was her first solo project on such a scale. “I’ve painted in large groups before, but this is big.”

The LI board had decided on the theme of “Starry Night” for this year’s Fall Formal. In regard to the photo booth, Olsen-Valdez said, “A few of us came up with the idea that we could paint our own backdrops. So I decided to volunteer.”

When asked if she was daunted by this project, Olsen-Valdez laughed as she stroked down a pine with paint. “Well, I was really excited. At our meeting I [thought], ‘Oh my god, this is going to be the coolest thing.’ I will tell you, though, last night when I started, I was not feeling so excited. I [wondered], ‘Oh my god … what did I get myself into?’”

Her efforts paid off and her worries dispersed. “It’s turning out pretty nice; I’m really happy with the result.”