believing it's a gift
why writers need talents of belief and disposition
A few weeks ago, I saw the Keith Haring retrospective at the Broad with an old friend, and a quote of the artist’s in the wall text caught my eye:
“My contribution to the world is my ability to draw. I will draw as much as I can for as many people as I can for as long as I can. Drawing is still basically the same as it has been since prehistoric times. It brings together man and the world. It lives through magic.” —Keith Haring
I haven’t stopped thinking about this quote. How direct and confident it is, and how generous as a result.
Keith Haring is one of those artists whose work I admire even though it doesn’t resonate thunderously with me. I like it, I get it, and it doesn’t go a lot deeper than that. But you have to admit, there aren’t a lot of contemporary-ish artists whose aesthetic has become a reference point of its own. You know it the moment you see it. I think you could probably buy a Keith Haring T-shirt at Target, now or ten years ago or ten years from now. He distilled a constellation of influences and concerns into an unmistakable style, and he made it his mission to produce it as much as he humanly could. Which, given the AIDS pandemic, was not as long as it should have been.
Sometimes I think: Maybe the greatest gift you can have as an artist is the certainty that your art is your contribution to the world.
When you believe that your ability to make art is your contribution to the world, you can work free of doubt and anxiety. You have nothing to prove. You don’t have to legislate a place for your work in a world that doubtlessly needs many, many other things.
And when you can work free of doubt and anxiety, you can make art that is free of doubt and anxiety.
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