Keith Haring Foundation, Inc.

Julie Anne Rhodes

In Anniversary on June 8, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Everywhere I turn lately I am reminded of my friend Keith Haring in the best possible way. It has left me feeling sentimental, and surprisingly emotional considering this year marks the 20th anniversary of his untimely death. Then again, he was an extraordinary man, and I feel so blessed to have known him.

Keith’s journals have just been re-released with a new foreword by Shepard Fairey. It was only after reading his journals when they were first published, that I began to fully appreciate what an incredible human being (beyond just the talented, fun, thoughtful friend I knew) that Keith truly was. I am literally in awe. In his short 31 years, he managed to leave an indelible mark on the world. His art is still as recognizable and sought after by younger generations today, as it was a symbol of our own generation. More importantly, the causes he cared so deeply about are still being supported by the Keith Haring Foundation today. Now that is a man worth admiring tremendously.

This year has seen the renaming of the GMHC’s food pantry program in Keith’s honor and the opening of the Keith Haring ASC Harlem Center. Solo exhibitions have been scheduled in Vienna, Brazil, and Korea. There is the capsule footwear collection in collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger that I wrote about on my blog http://jeweslfromtherovingstove.blogspot.com, carrying on Keith’s controversial wish to make art affordable to the masses when he opened the Pop shop in the late 80’s, and just this week, my close family friends, Mary and John Pappajohn donated a 10 foot tall trio of Keith’s figures to the sculpture park they founded in my hometown of Des Moines, Iowa.

In 1982 I suddenly found myself thrust into a very glamorous world when I fell in love with Duran Duran keyboardist, Nick Rhodes and eventually married him. I was often insecure and uncomfortable in that world, never sure how sincere people really were. Keith was different from the rest.

We met at Andy’s Factory on a crisp, sunny September afternoon. Keith was so down to earth and unpretentious, unlike the rest of us, that I instinctively trusted him. We went to plenty of chic parties together, and danced most nights away at Palladium, Area, or some other hip club; but Keith was also the kind of friend that would dash uptown in the pouring rain during morning rush hour traffic when I needed consoling. He was “there” for his friends, offering inspiration by decorating the Paris studio my husband was recording in, and always attending my seemingly endless birthday parties.

Nick and I had amassed a large collection of Jean Cocteau drawings that for some reason I preferred to arrange differently against the outskirts of the living room walls each day. Then I would spend hours just sitting in the center of the room with them, as if they were companions. I was mortified when Keith showed up on our doorstep in Paris, and I hadn’t hung anything yet. Typical Keith, he intuitively put my embarrassment to rest when the first words out of his mouth were “I LOVE that you have kept the walls clean!” He even sat in the middle of the floor with me, appreciating the drawings scattered about.

On another occasion, I whispered to Keith how out of my depth I felt in my lack of knowledge about the art world as we sat surrounded by Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francesco Clemente, and Julian Schnabel one evening at Mr. Chow’s in New York. He looked at me, and genuinely said “that is exactly why I find it so refreshing to be with you”, easing my anxiety, and encouraging me to just be myself, because myself was enough.

For a couple years I had heard rumors that Keith was sick, but when I would ask, he always reassured me, “I’m fine”. It was a Dali-esque moment, sitting on our bed in London, when Nick read the article in Rolling Stone magazine aloud. Keith went public that he was indeed sick with full-blown AIDS. When Nick finished, I only had to look at him before he said, “I know… you want to go to New York.” I was on the next Concorde out.

That last time I saw Keith, we sat up all night long laughing, crying, and everything in between. It was the first time I faced the impending loss of someone I loved head-on, and I was so grateful for the opportunity to tell him how much he meant to me face to face. He taught me more about appreciating every moment of life in that one evening than an entire lifetime might have taught me otherwise. The world is better place, because he once inhabited it, and he is still making it a better place.

  1. Such a lovely memorial to a great artist. Julie Anne’s words eloquently give back everything that Keith gave her in their time together.

  2. I always liked him and remember seeing some specials on shows like Night Flight or something like that and of course, the appearances he did with the guys from Duran Duran. And I seem to remember a giant dress Grace Jones wore in a video that had to be about a hundred yards of fabric that he painted. He always seemed like a special person and his style was so unique and was instantly recognizable.

  3. Lovely tribute!

  4. Hi I’m very new in this whole blogging thing. I have to write a paper on Keith Haring. Didn’t know who is was but I am familiar with his work. Extraordinary man as I am reading about his life and his work. Any feedback on Mr. Haring would be appreciated. I am a 41 year first time college student I really would like to do well on researching Keith Haring. Any suggestions or comments. Until then I will enjoy viewing and reading about Keith’s life and viewing his great works of art and expression!

  5. HI I AM A ARTIST LIVING IN PHILLY. I BELIEVE THAT I HAVE BEEN TOUCHED BY THE SOUL OF YOUR DEAR FRIEND KEITH. I AM VERY FAMILIAR WITH HIS WORKS AND ALL OF THE LOVE HE SHARED WITH THE WORLD. I WOULD LIKE TO INVITE YOU TO PHILLY FOR A GALLERY SHOWING OF MY WORKS. KEITH ONCE SAID THAT HE HAD SO MUCH LEFT TO DO. I AM KEEPING THAT DREAM ALIVE THROUGH MY ART. MY STYLE IS VERY CLOSE TO YOUR FRIENDS STYLE. IN 1983 I WAS IN A SERIOUS CAR ACCIDENT AND I CAME BACK. SINCE READING THE ARTICLE FROM MY HOSPITAL BED I HAVE BEEN SO MOVED BY THIS BEAUTIFUL MAN. I STARTED MY ART @ 4 YEARS PF AGE N THE BEACHES OF CONEY ISLAND. JUST SHAPES IN THE WET SAND.THAT IS HOW MY ART CAME TO LIFE. FIVE YEARS AGO @3 A.M. I OPENED ONE OF MY BOOKS ON KEITH. I TORE OUT THE UNFINISHED PAINTING AND CHILLS CAME OVER MY BODY. I TOOK A PENCIL AND IN 1 HOUR I SKETCHED IN THE REST OF THE UNFINISHED PAINTING BY KEITH. SINCE THEN I HAVE BEEN DOING UNDER GROUND PAINTINGS . THE PAST 4 YEARS I REALLY STARTED TO TAKE MY ART IN A SERIOUS WAY. I WILL BE INCLUDING THE FINISHED PAINTING AS ONE OF MY PIECES. MY NAME IS MANUELLO SERGIO MARZZALLINO. I AM A 47 YEAR OLD ITALIAN CUBAN AND PUERTORICAN MAN. I LOVE LIFE AND I LOVE ART. I WOULD LIKE TO SPEAK WITH YOU FURTHER ABOUT YOUR DEAR FREIND KEITH. I NEVER MET HIM BUT I FEEL SUCH A DEEP SPIRITUAL CONNECTION TO HIM. I REALLY ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE IT GAVE ME SUCH CHILLS THAT I BEGAN TO CRY FOR KEITH. I KNOW I HAVE BEEN TOUCHED BY HIS CREATIVE SPIRIT. A SOUL EXCHANGE. KEITHS FEAR WASNT TO DIE OF AIDS IT WAS TO DIE AND NOT HAVE ANYONE TO CARRY ON HIS SPIRITUAL ENERGY. I AM A VERY POOR UNEMPLOYED MAN. I HAVE A DREAM TO PICK UP WHERE KEITH LEFT OFF. CREATE TRAVEL AND BE COMFORTABLE IN WEALTH. I SAY THAT BECAUSE I AM RICH IN SPIRIT MONEY DOES NOT MATTER. WHAT MATTERS IS REACHING OUT STAYING HUMBLE KEEPING PEACE AND LOVE IN MY HEART. I REALLY WOULD LIKE TO MEET YOU MY FRIEND. I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS ABOUT KEITH. WHEN YOU SEE MY WORK YOU WILL UNDERSTAND. I KNOW I HAVE A WONDERFUL GIFT AND I AM ABOUT TO SHARE IT WITH THE WORLD. I WOULD LIKE US TO BECOME FRIENDS . YOU HAVE CAPTURED THE VERY SOUL OF KEITH THROUGH THIS HEART FELT ARTICLE. I GOT CHILLS ALL OVER AFTER I READ IT! I HOPE WE CAN MEET AND TALK SOME TIME IN THE FUTURE. I WILL CONTINUE TO CREATE AND REACH FOR THE STARS!! THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS WONDERFUL TRIBUTE TO KEITH!! R.I.P. K.H. PEACE AND LOVE. MSMSOUL ARTIST

  6. A VERY LOVELY WELL WRITTEN ARTICLE!!! HE IS ALWAYS ALIVE THROUGH THE SOULS HE HAS TOUCHED!! I WILL BE SHOWING MY WORKS IN PHILADELPHIA ON JAN 7TH @ VEN AND VAIDA GALLERY IN OLD CITY ON 3RD ST. I WOULD LUV FOR YOU AND YOUR HUSBAND TO COME TO THE SHOW !! MY NAME IS MANUELLO SERGIO MARZZALLINO MSMSOUL ARTIST!! I WOULD LIKE TO TALK MORE TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT YOUR DEAR FRIEND KEITH!! THE 80S WAS MY ERA!! I LOVE DURAN DURAN SUCH GREAT SONGS AND ENERGY!! PEACE AND LOVE TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY.

  7. [...] all started with a piece I wrote for the Keith Haring Foundation. I was stunned into action, astounded by how much my talented and benevolent friend managed to [...]

  8. [...] you’ve tried? PS. Check out the piece I wrote about my friendship with Keith Haring at the Keith Haring Foundation . [...]

  9. [...] humor was not lost on me, although my eyes did well up a bit, when the car my friend Keith Haring painted happened to be one of the very first pieces I saw as I entered the main hall. I had an [...]

  10. [...] Tatjana was five months old, Keith Haring offered to come paint her nursery in London. We were on the road at the time; Keith, Tatjana and I [...]

  11. [...] 54th birthday this week,  I wanted to share a post I wrote about my dear friend for the Keith Haring Foundation a few years ago. With my friends Vuk, and Keith Haring on my 30th birthday in [...]

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