i originally came across the graffiti patterns of 80s NYC street artist KEITH HARING from the charity christmas album A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS in what had to have been the late 80s when i was still in single digits. in fact, hearing the EURYTHMICS rendition of "winter wonderland" immediately puts me in the yuletide spirit as only a child could imagine, even as a now-30+ year old agnostic in the middle of june.
HARING, much like british director DEREK JARMAN, is an icon of a place and time when creative homosexual men were navigating the line between commerce and identity and really struggling. also like JARMAN, he left this world too soon a victim to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the indifference of society at large during that period.
and its that indifference to the plight of others that makes me feel that his work resonates with me now in our current cultural moment. when i see his crude patterns of interconnected humanoid figures, full of movement and spontaneity, i am reminded of our collective kinship and our mutual obligations to each other. to me that was his message.
our humanity connects us.
that message was powerful in a NYC 80s art context where peers and loved ones were passing on from the new Black Death within a political/cultural/societal context that didn't recognize or have any compassion. reagan didnt give a shit. neither did any catholic priest.
feels the same way now with many families being separated, mothers and fathers having their children kidnapped in OUR NAME. that indifference kills me yet it perpetuates what i see in our media and in our culture. i had the pleasure of living in Myanmar and i witnessed this same indifference to their other, the ROHINGYA. living one lived reality while knowing full well that atrocities and war crimes where only a few hundred miles away.
no difference here stateside. we are deluding ourselves with our indifference.
RIP keith haring. thank you for your message of inclusivity and tenderness and continually reminding us of our obligation to each other.