Basquiat …Let’s Be Honest

All Hail Basquiat!

Sure. It’s very trendy to like him. What modern-hip artfan would deny his genius outloud?

But let’s be hones, sometimes we erroneously think … I could do that, because of his primitve, almost childlike style.

Though, I really do love his work, I’m more moved by his story.

The context and the story of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s tumultuous life makes his paintings worth millions today. After all, he became “perfect storm” of artistic success:

  • He was poor and outcast.
  • He was miraculously discovered
  • His fierce vibrant paintings are iconic and full of mystery
  • They the culture of the eighties
  • His ties to celebrities like Andy Warhol and Madonna
  • The New York factor (instant stamp of coolness)
  • The race factor…(ah hem… how many rich white dudes feel like they are completely free of racism just because the own a Basquiat?)
  • The addict factor: Hello Pollock, addiction and creativity go together like Mac and cheese.
  • The death factor: Nothing makes your work more relevant. Than tragedy. If you are young and dead, even better.
  • Finally, the time factor: decades have passed and it is still relevant.

It’s the perfect narrative for any “high roller”art collector. It’s the American Dream via Shakespearian Tragedy. There’s nothing more actually American than the story of Basquiat.

As for his paintings, I know for a fact that someone could try to copy one of his paintings almost perfectly. Maybe he or she could even adopt his style… Why not? It is really cool… right?! But here’s the thing even if I could make work like Basquiat, nothing would happen.

It would never end up at Christie’s auction…even of I became a crack-head, transgender, double amputee, schizophrenic and blew myself up in Times Square in the name of Bernie Sanders, it would never ever end up at Christie’s auction.

Here’s why…

It wouldn’t be honest work for me.

It’s not about the paint on the canvas or the picture it makes.

It’s about the impression and impact that we make on society with our own Truth.

Whether it’s a bold scribble of yellow and red or a dreamy portrait of something sublime, we only get our own “voice” to work with.

In a world of a million voices shouting for acknowledgement, it’s hard to been seen or heard. It’s tempting to try to be trendy or current, but that feels like selling out to most of us. Our only chance at making an impression is to learn to like ourselves, trust our instincts, and never create dishonestly.

Whether we spend 12 hours on a photo-realistic oil portrait, snap a few photos in on the way to the dentist, or slap a canvas with a big wet brush and call it done: we must be honest.

As long as our work is honest, it doesn’t matter.

We must keep moving forward in the “language” that is true to our souls.

Personally, I don’t know why I paint abstracts. I drool over so many other types of work, but I can’t compare myself to others….that’s not my voice, my language or my song.

The likelihood of any of us ever reaching the fame of Basquiat is minuscule.

The price for that type of fame requires at least a heroine addiction, a period of homelessness and an untimely death.

I really do love the work of Basquiat…but not because it is perfect or the best.

I love it because he was honest.

Photo via Google: Notary by Jean-Michel Basquiat

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