Life & Death > Oh so that's how it works

Oh so that's how it works

Published: November 23, 2010

So it turns out I can add photos here. I can feel my ignorance waning. Or not, depending. I mean that is no great photo. But it's a start.

What the photo is is a detail. By detail I mean a small part of a bigger thing that gets worse the more you see. The bigger thing is a painting. By painting I mean paint applied to canvas. This is in fact a painting I've been working on for days. By working on I mean slapping some paint on every time I'm not happy with what I see there. Which happens about every three days. In the end I expect it will end like most of my paintings. It will serve a utilitarian purpose like the one I use to block a power outlet that shorts out my entire house. The painting is so bad no one gets near it, which means they don't move it to find the busted power outlet behind it, which means that they don't short out my house.

I am a painter who can't paint. By that I mean I've been told I'm a painter who writes. Which also explains to some degree why I don't write for money. But that is a more complicated issue and in the end not relevant. Because this, oddly enough, isn't about me. It's about a guy born a few days after me and a few miles away.

That guy was born May 4th, 1958 in Reading, PA. He died on February 16th 1990, a few weeks before turning 32. In many ways, he was the A side of me. He was a thin guy who loved NYC. He was a workaholic. And a funaholic. He was Keith Haring. In my view, he was a writer who painted.

He developed his own alphabet. Most likely you have seen it. Took a while to get all the shapes figured out, but once he had them, he could assemble a painting at about the pace you or I could assemble a paragraph.

He could paint without thinking. There are a lot of painters who plan and plan and plan, then paint. Red Grooms comes to mind. Then at the other end of the spectrum is Jackson Pollock. He drank and drank and drank, then painted. Keith seemed to develop his alphabet. Then once he had it down, he took off around the world and wrote letters to the human race. On the documentary I just watched he was doing a mural somewhere in Europe. He showed up with no plan, did the outline in two hours, filled it in with color and bam, another masterwork.

I had a conversation once with a non-writer who described writing this way "I know what I want to say, but after I get done writing, it's never what I wanted". With Keith painting, I get the sense it was always what he wanted. Wam bam.

That is the A side B side issue. I write the same way he painted. It's very quick, very much two hours and done. Not talking quality here, just quantity and ease of delivery.

So the other A and B issue is that he was gay got AIDS and died young. Had it gone the other way, well, you'd be looking at the flip side today. That is to say, a much better painting. And no words.

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