There’s a Strange Reason Why ‘Gen-X’ Author Douglas Coupland Put a Giant Van Gogh Head in a Vineyard

Hint: It has to do with redheads, Pinot Noir, and genetic mutation.

Douglas Coupland with Van Gogh lookalike Daniel Baker. Courtesy

Following a worldwide search for a Vincent van Gogh doppelgänger, Canadian author-turned-artist Douglas Coupland has unveiled a giant bust of the Dutch artist that he created with the help of 3D scanning at a Canadian vineyard.

Coupland was commissioned by Anthony von Mandl, owner of Martin’s Lane Vineyard in Kelowna, to create the work, the first in a series titled “Redheads” that apparently looks to connect the fact that both Pinot Noir grapes and red hair are the results of genetic mutations. To wit, the grapes are the result of natural mutations in Burgundy’s vineyards over centuries, while red hair is a fluke in human genetics. Both represent only 2 percent of their respective populations, according to Coupland.

“This genetic magic in both redheads and Pinot Noir grapes is a microcosm of the way in which all life on earth evolves with time,” writes Coupland.

The likeness of van Gogh further—if somewhat gruesomely—extends to the fact that the bronze bust is sans one ear, though a statement from the winery says the sideways positioning of the sculpture suggests “listening to the ground to hear the grapes growing.” A quizzical viewer might note that while Van Gogh’s red hair is the ostensible heart of the overall concept, the sculpture is in fact entirely grey.


Douglas Coupland with vineyard owner Anthony van Mandl. Courtesy Martin's Lane Winery

Douglas Coupland with vineyard owner Anthony van Mandl. Courtesy Martin’s Lane Winery

Coupland is most famous for his 1991 debut novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, which sparked the moniker now cemented forever in popular culture. He began making art in 2000 and has had numerous public artworks on display around the globe.

This past fall, Daniel Baker, an actor from Dorset, England, won Coupland’s van Gogh lookalike competition. At the time, Coupland wrote on the competition’s website: “I’d spent months looking at van Gogh lookalikes on a computer screen, and then suddenly there was this man, this Vincent van Gogh, hopping out of a Vancouver taxi, looking like he’d just stepped out of the year 1889.”

Baker was selected out of 1,250 entries from 37 countries, following a popular vote open to the public that drew 500,000 submissions. The prize included a €5,000 award.

Baker’s head was 3D-scanned using hundreds of cameras to generate multidimensional facial data. The data was then used to create a likeness of Van Gogh’s head.

Though this is the first commissioned work in a planned series, there is no word yet on what other artists the winery plans to work with. Asked why the winery started with Van Gogh, a spokesman told artnet News: “Simply put, Vincent van Gogh is probably the most famous redhead that ever lived.”

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