Thursday, June 17, 2010

You WHAT? My Adventure with the Keith Haring Drawing.

I was in the bookstore today and saw that Juxtapoz Magazine had featured Keith Haring on the cover of their June issue.  Evidently it's the 20 year anniversary of his death.  Doesn't seem that long ago.  The magazine has a good interview with Tony Shafrazi who talks about Haring's life, influences and exhibitions...all while describing the historical backdrop of the particular time period in which he flourished.  For those interested, you should try to pick up a copy.

I personally love Keith Haring's work.  I always have.  Every time I see a piece by him I smile.  The energy just seems to radiate out, touching everyone in it's path..,even to this day.  In spiritual circles there is a belief that there are those souls who come to earth for just a brief lifetime.  They are full of light and energy and touch humanity in an expansive, intense and profound way.  As a result they change the course or direction of mankind.  Jimi Hendrix and The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr can be cited as modern day examples.  So can Keith Haring.

A few years ago a dear friend of mine and her family moved overseas.  They weren't sure they were going to stay, and there was no way they could move all that they had accumulated, so they filled their garage with an assortment of their eclectic antique odds and ends and left it in storage for a couple of years.  When they finally decided to stay in Europe, it was left up to a mutual friend to sort out and deal with all the items in their garage.

"Diane - he told me - you really should look through that stuff in the garage before we sell it.  There are a lot of things you could probably use in your mixed media work...just take what you want and I'll settle up with you later.  I know she would want you to go through it first."  Sounded like a good idea to me.

I spent several days sifting through the treasure/junk in the garage...covered with dirt in 95 degree heat most of the time.  But it was definitely worth my while.  Besides being an antique dealer, my friend had also been a former artist and had a grand collection of just about everything imaginable.

She had been part of the "hey day" of the New York art scene in the 80's.  Her work had been widely exhibited and published. As a result she had created pieces that are now part of MOMA's permanent collection.  She ran with Warhol, was friends with Keith Haring, knew Baquiat (and avoided him) and was the inspiration behind the Tama Janozwitz book and movie, "Slaves of New York".  She was an old soul.  A definite force of nature who brought divine magic into the lives of those she chose to friend, and granted no mercy to fools.  She didn't talk about her art years very often.  She had packaged that life away and relegated it to the past when she decided to start a family.  But when she did talk about those days...who she knew and what they was pretty memorable to listen to her stories.

During the course of those stories my friend would sometimes mention that she had artwork by Keith Haring and Basquiat up in her attic.  I honestly didn't know whether I believed her or not.  I couldn't imagine having art pieces like that and not displaying them in my home.  Later on though, I found out that she had lost so many of her friends to the AIDS epidemic, it hurt her too much to look at the artwork and relive the memories connected to those wonderful people.

Anyway...after about my 2nd or 3rd day in her garage...dirt, 95 degrees with humidity....I ran across a group of rolled up pieces that looked like maps and posters.  The only reason I even bothered to look at them was because my husband liked old maps and I was curious if there were any in the pile.

I guess you can figure out happened next.  I unwittingly unrolled a Keith Haring drawing and about died.  I was 'so' excited, but also nervous because although in poor shape this piece of art was probably worth a lot of money and I doubted that she even knew where it was.  I immediately took it home, e-mailed our mutual friend who was dealing with her property and said "Umm...guess what I found"?

Of course he was flabbergasted and even more excited about the discovery then I was.  He had also heard the stories about the drawing over the years.  I waited until my kids and husband came home to show the piece them before I turned the artwork over to him.

Their reaction was priceless.  "You WHAT"??  I get a lot from my family for some reason.  I particularly wanted to show the drawing to my son who was an art student at the time and whom I had always felt connected with the embodiment of Haring's "Radiant Baby".  He glowed just looking at it.  We took a few quick pics and I passed it off to our friend as quickly as I could so that he could sent it on.

When I dropped the artwork off our friend explained to me that what I had found was a subway drawing.  He was excited because he had lived in New York during that time period too and had heard so much about these pieces but had never seen one up close.  He then spent some time and told me a little about the history of Haring's subway work.

In the Juxtapoz article, Shafrazi explains further about the subway drawings:

"...was inspired by the black fragmented panels when they weren't being used for ads, so he sought them as an invitation to draw.  He filled his pockets with chalk every morning to go out there and start to draw, make every stop, know which rental periods were over, put a black wallpaper in that section, jump out and start drawing on that one and that one."

 and he continues...

"So in a month, there were hundreds, if not thousands, and in 12 months there were literally thousands and thousands of drawings all the way from Brooklyn to Harlem to the Bronx."

Long live Keith Haring....  He touched the lives of many in such a positive way.  Great legacy to leave as an artist....isn't it?

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