VIDEO EDITORIAL: STRETCHING THE REAL
Keith Haring Helped Us Find Art Everywhere. So, we’ve created a fashion/beauty video inspired by Haring’s work and examined his life in terms of his continuous influence on the art world and, in particular, the fashion industry.
Video by CANISTER STUDIO / HARRIET & STELLA MACDONALD for LMC WORLDWIDE x SHK Magazine
Nails by MICHELLE HUMPHREY for LMC WORLDWIDE
Body artist CECE
Makeup MICHELLE WEBB
Stylist JADE STAVRI
Clothing SCARLET RAGE VINTAGE
Model KATHLEEN O for M+P MODELS
Keith Haring leaned forward gawkily in a Paris nightclub facing French TV show host Thierry Ardisson in 1990. He hid inside an oversized leather jacket and winced often, showing off the anxiety of someone on the verge of missing a weighty dinner date. At the end of the interview, he blurted the kind of self-realized introspection reserved for veteran artists at the end of long careers, but he did so brashly, his voice hitting the kind of swift brush strokes that defined his aesthetic.
Andrisson: If you had to give a definition of yourself, what would you say?
Haring: I’m an artist in the real sense of the word, meaning you can do anything. I could build things — make T-shirts, books, design furniture, build buildings, you know, just really a real artist.
Of course, Haring passed away a few weeks later of AIDS complications, just before his 32nd birthday. He was often characterized by a certain kind of vibrancy, which included painting himself into corners to Devo and the B52s, sketching a “radiant child” at subway stations with white chalk and speeding through murals in Barcelona.
Haring’s mother Joan recalls the circumstances of his birth in the first few minutes of the 2008 documentary The Universe of Keith Haring, describing a “sunny side up birth” that should’ve indicated Keith’s boisterousness. Yet while his early death may have frozen his youthfulness cryogenically, it also crystallized his influence, which has deeply permeated those of us who were born during his heyday. As a generation we understand how his imagery resonated with people, sure, but we can relate to his impulsiveness. Haring didn’t paint with sketches. He didn’t have blueprints or projects or even roadmaps prepared for his murals and frescos.
For a shining example, turn your attention to improvisational fashion designer Jeremy Scott, whose admiration for Haring is not only reflected in his work, i.e., a Haring jacket for Schott, but in his philanthropic efforts as well, having collaborated with the Keith Haring Foundation.
“Keith basically customized anything that walked into his line of sight, from shoes to pants, people — everything, and just the way he kind of applied his art — he made it very accessible,” said Scott in the promo video for an Adidas / Haring Foundation collaboration. The non-profit, which focuses mainly on AIDS research and benefiting children, boasts Tommy Hilfiger, Levi’s, Patricia Field, Zara and Nicholas Kirkwood among its fashionable ranks.
Haring didn’t turn very many projects down, either — he was grossly prolific because he trusted with his gut, and not with a political mind. In this sense, Haring was a precursor for the mild, healthy distrust with which my generation connects to the world. He may be a perfect patron saint of my generation. Haring worked in a socio-politically complex decade, but reacted to the tail end of the Cold War and the AIDS epidemic with the kind of elation Nathan Lee of The New York Times once described as “unflagging vitality.” And he stood at the center of an art movement that was becoming global in scope. Artists worldwide started drawing from the same influences, and Haring was at the center of it all with rapid, rhythmic lines drawn above his head in jet-black paint.
This radiance – fun by way of a tinge of protest and depth without slighting education and other social institutions much – is the kind of attitude contemporary politics forces us to adopt, namely in the way we fuse culture and entrepreneurship. Like Haring, we like doing things our way.
Haring was also inclined towards community service, meaning he wasn’t a showboat about good deeds. In addition to the Haring Foundation, he did things like dish out $40,000 and legal bills for a friend (who wished to remain anonymous) who was arrested for murder in 1986 out of a genuine belief in his innocence.
Haring later baptized his daughter, a member of my generation, who quietly boasts an 81% community service rate despite our self-centered reputation.
Plus, Haring worked with urgency, like he knew his life would be cut short — the kind of baroque urgency our young innovators are demonstrating today, especially in the arts, fashion, technology, marketing and interior design fields Haring profoundly influenced. His vitality precedes our irreverence, which goes beyond just misunderstood pride. It’s his impatience that makes us ready to burst like water balloons.
And most importantly, Haring stretches the “real sense” of the word artist, so that we can all be artists, too. — Ahmed Mori
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