I was excited to find a long article about the late graffiti artist Keith Haring in it, particularly because of this 1984 photo of Madonna in a Haring “boy toy” painted denim jacket.
This photo made me think a million thoughts. First of all, I’ve been all about ’80s-style painted denim jackets recently. Plus, I’ve always lusted for the Keith Haring skirt Madonna wore in her “Borderline” video (the one in the photo looks the same, just hiked up). And right before London, I was in Paris, where I saw a fantastic and very comprehensive Keith Haring exhibit.
I remember seeing Haring’s work in subway stations back in the day. He’d draw his radiant babies and barking dogs on empty black panels where advertising was supposed to be placed on the subway station walls. It was amazing to see those pieces transported to a museum. One of those panels even came accompanied by the advertising poster that had been next to it, upon which someone had scribbled “Enough already, Haring!” Ha! I was bummed out that there was no exhibition catalog for purchase. I particularly would have liked something with an image of the canvases Haring and Andy Warhol did for Madonna. My iPhone photo came out blurry, possibly because my hands were shaking when I saw those pieces. I’ve never forgotten Madonna’s “So What!” New York Post headline after the newspaper tried to embarrass her with old nude modeling photos. Here’s NPR to the rescue with an image of how Haring and Warhol turned that into art.
As a museum gift-shop consolation prize, I bought a bookmark with a Haring-i-fied penis on it as a souvenir …
… and later ordered the Keith Haring Reebok sneakers I’d been studying for a while.
But Haring had been on my mind even before the museum exhibit because — while gathering up childhood possessions at my parents’ house in May — I’d rediscovered this big “Free South Africa” Haring poster.
I wasn’t sure if this poster originally belonged to me or to my gorgeous sister, Terri Berry, but I made off with it anyway. The late ’80s protests against South Africa’s racist apartheid system made such a huge impression on me that my trip to South Africa earlier this year felt surreal. Back in the day, I would never have imagined that such a thing would ever be possible.
Keith Haring printed out and gave away 20,000 of the Free South Africa posters in 1985, but as far as I know, one of us bought this poster later. Maybe Terri Berry remembers? Anyway, I just realized that today is Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday, so this post is serendipitously well-timed. Mandela is in the hospital, as he was when I was in South Africa a few months ago. When we drove by his house — one of his real, current homes, not the one that’s been turned into a museum — you could see the press sitting under a tent, waiting for news from the family on Mandela’s condition. I guess they’re all still rooted in that same spot!
Well, all I meant to do here was share a picture of Madonna and say, “Weren’t those painted denim jackets awesome?” but this ended up being a good reminder to me that some things in the world do change for the better over the years. As I’ve written before, it’s easy to think — pretty much at any given moment — that civilization is at an all-time low, but that’s provably not true if you know your history. Not only was apartheid overthrown thanks to people like Nelson Mandela, but people with AIDS — which killed Keith Haring at only 31 — can now live long lives thanks to advances in medication.
To wrap things up with Madonna, you should know that she dedicated the New York area concert from her 1990 Blonde Ambition tour to her friend Keith Haring and donated the proceeds to the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR).
Last week, I blogged about the benefit concert she did for amfAR in 1987. She really stuck with the cause. Props to her!