Powerful expressions of inner angst, fused together by passionately bold strokes, Jean-Michele Basquiat’s works have an edge to them, that in my opinion emanates pure artistic genius. Every work of art, no matter the creator, always has some type of emotion... I mean its inevitable. And Basquiat’s paintings radiate emotion mixed with a peculiar insanity, and that’s what I absolutely love about it.
The vibrant colors, the uncertainty, the chaos, and the somewhat child-like appearance, all come together in such a way that evokes a perplexing nature.
Oh how I long to have experienced the art scene in Manhattan in the 1980s. A time when art was integrated so effortlessly into the landscape, becoming one with the environment itself, and thus giving emerging artists the inspiration and community to fully express themselves creatively. The downtown streets of Manhattan provided a hidden escape from the established, more elite art world and allowed a new breed of artists to feed off of each other ’s insight and passion in a way that influenced the rule breakers and risk takers (pertaining to the graffiti movement around this time). No more of that “Same Old Shit”; SAMO! Basquiat and fellow street artist Al Diaz identified with this pseudonym, tagging the word around the streets, creating a poetic rhythm of graffiti that seemed to echo a great deal throughout the city. Words so bold, so obscure, so witty, but thematically pertained to some type of anti-establishment/anti-politics mindset that set those artists apart as creatively rebellious.
—About to side track a bit, but bear with me, this information is crucial to my point of view on Basquiat.
So, I’m lucky enough to have an insanely cool mother (Keri Wiederspahn) who experienced the graffiti movement of the 80’s up front and circled in with some of the greatest of that era- Basquiat, Keith Harring, Kenny Scharf, Victor Matthews. She played her role as an artist assistant to some of these guys, while studying at Parsons.
Now, having insight into this time through mom’s eyes is beyond amazing. Hearing her input on something that is so incredibly compelling to me makes me one lucky gal.
What exactly does an artist’s assistant do? Let’s delve in to the studio experience and I'll set the scene a bit (through my words, mom's eyes):
huge spaces flooded with light overwhelmed by an aura of linseed oil and paint, chaotically dispersed with white paper and blank canvas eagerly waiting to be transformed into something magnificent; tools lurking in the shadows; worn out brushes holding on to the lingering presence of creative hands; vibrant color leaking from tubes of white, manipulated into odd shapes pressed by eager fingers;
...an artists paradise. where creation is cultivated. ideas are born. and most of all, where the artistic energy is ubiquitous.
Anyways, my mom helped out around this space (particularly Victor Matthews') by preparing panels, scheduling appointments with collectors, and most of the time entertained a "very robust nightlife" with the whole crew outside of the studio. And what had become super fascinating to her was the window she had into the whole male artist experience, where, as a female, she was treated as one of the guys.
There was an extreme emphasis on hype--Hype of a new form of art that served as a gateway into a lifestyle that touched into the pulse of Manhattan in an edgy, and very authentic type of way. And I believe that's what drew so much attention to these artistic dudes (Scharf, Harring, Basquait, Matthews)--their distinctively bold style which started to bleed out all throughout the unpredictable streets, and was fused together by their passion to create with emotion and poetry.
I think my fascination with the New York art scene of the 80's and my visually stimulated imagination has only heightened my love of Basquiat's works. Moving to New York City has opened my eyes to things I've never appreciated before. I am honored to live in a city where my favorite artists thrived-- where their ideas were born. The stimulation, the excitement, the overwhelming amount of energy. I am inspired to take that and channel it into my own works.
I have developed a new found love for a different medium: dreams and memories and moments-- represented by the figments of my imagination. As well as the help from my new friends: Sennelier oil sticks, Neocolor II artists crayons, and golden acrylics.
My eyes have been open to a new realm of possibilities.
I think about the world alot-- about the people I meet, the beautiful souls who add so much light to my life and the others around them, I think about those who make a mark on my life then slowly and sadly come and go. I think about the places I yearn to travel to, the wonders of what the earth has to offer. And how it would be really amazing to see the world from a bird's eye view or even explore the depths of the ocean ... You get the point.
I am on a grand journey to find my own "voice" in my imagery of the world and how I perceive the people and things around me. In the past, much of my works have been done using a reference to truly capture the essence of a real scene or person. I find joy in being able to do that, but I feel as though I have an itch for more of my creativity to bleed through in my works. I take pride in my overly active imagination, my abundance of energy, and my truly undying love for creativity and optimism . Why not let that shine , am I right?
So I'd like to say thank you to Basquiat, to New York City, to my creativity, to my positive energy, and to the people around me who inspire and support me in my journey. For opening my eyes to a different form of thinking- a new way of expressing my creativity and optimism for life.
I'm not there yet, but am slowly and surely becoming a happier person as I go along this journey. And am soaking up every second.