Art and Pride: Keith Haring
As part of Pride, I wanted to do a journal on a few artists whose works are known for being associated with the gay rights movement, just to share a bit of queer history that ties in with art and how we view art and our world because of the impact they’ve had. Having said that, I’m admittedly not much of an art historian, and it seemed woefully unfair to boil the efforts of many down into an amount of text that would fit into one singular journal. Instead, I decided to focus on one so I could provide at least a little insight into an influential artist in the queer community.(Keith Haring in front of his Pisa Mural, 1989)One of the most recognizable artists from New York in the 1980s, Keith Haring was born in Pennsylvania in 1958, and grew to love drawing early on, taking inspiration from cartoons and pop culture. He attended a commercial arts school in Pittsburgh for a year, but dropped out after deciding he had no interest in being a commercial artist. (Untitled, 1980)He moved to New York City the same year he dropped out of college, and became friends with a number of artists and musicians on the scene, including people like Andy Warhol, Madonna, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. (A Pile of Crowns, for Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1988)Between 1980 and 1989, Haring created hundreds of public drawings, many done with white chalk on unused advertising panels in the New York subway system. At the same time, he participated in numerous art exhibitions, both on his own and with other artists. During the ‘80s he traveled to dozens of cities around the world to create works, many for charities, hospitals, and orphanages. (Berlin Wall Mural, 1986)Haring’s works consistently carried social messages, ranging from anti-apartheid murals to the negative impact he could see media holding on those around him. His well-known mural, Crack is Wack, was created in response to an increase in cocaine-related deaths around New York.(Crack is Wack, 1986)His works also often delved into the concept of the self, and combined ideas and imagery from his Christian upbringing with his idea of himself and his sexuality. Several of his works focus on the self and the other, and on passion and eroticism between two people.(Boxers, 1988)As the AIDS crisis continued throughout the 1980s, Haring lost a number of friends and loved ones to the disease, and he was diagnosed with AIDS himself in 1988. He wasn’t surprised by the diagnosis, and perhaps because of it—or in spite of it—his artistic output continued as though he hadn’t been diagnosed in the first place, though many of his works in the wake of his diagnosis were clearly impacted by it.(Ignorance = Fear, 1989)When asked about his AIDS diagnosis in interviews, he offered a philosophical response:Part of the reason that I’m not having trouble facing the reality of death is that it’s not a limitation, in a way. It could have happened any time, and it is going to happen sometime. If you live your life according to that, death is irrelevant. Everything I’m doing right now is exactly what I want to do.In 1989, he created the Keith Haring Foundation to continue supporting children’s and AIDS-related organizations, and he continued to create art up until he no longer could. Keith Haring passed away from complications related to AIDS on February 16, 1990, but even now the impact of his art can be felt around the world.(Altarpiece, 1990)All above images were sourced from the Keith Haring Foundation. If you’d like to know more about Haring and his work, I highly recommend you visit the foundation’s website. In addition to sharing Haring's work, I wanted to include a few creations by deviants inspired by or in tribute to him. You can find those below. Thank you for reading!