After finding a tribute to Vincent Van Gogh tucked beneath a bridge at the Medina River crossing on Texas State Highway 16, I couldn’t help wondering how long it had been there. Who painted it? How well would it survive its somewhat precarious placement only a few feet above the river?
The Medina usually flows shallow at that spot, but flooding sometimes raises its waters multiple feet above the highway. I assumed that any combination of fast-moving water and debris surely would scrub the painting off the underside of the bridge, or at least damage it severely.
Despite a significant flood in May of 2016, when I returned to the spot two years later, the painting remained intact, and it was an addition which caught my eye, not a subtraction.
The graffiti left by a George Strait fan brought a smile for two reasons: its Texas flavor, and the care that was taken not to mar the painting. Despite the kayakers, swimmers, and casual passers-by who surely have seen this little gem underneath the bridge, it’s escaped both natural and human damage for two years.
I thought of the painting recently after watching the film Loving Vincent. Searching for some historical details, I found this fascinating video which links the river and the painting through its exploration of turbulent flow. In ways that the artist who created the tribute to Van Gogh might not have appreciated, the placement of Van Gogh’s swirling skies above the Medina’s swirling waters is entirely appropriate.