Saturday, December 4, 2010

Jean-Michel & Mayzie Jean: Valentines forever

When I found out there was a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting at PAM, I was shocked. How had this been under my nose? I loved him so much and for so long but I had somehow never considered the possibility of being in the same room as his work, especially right here in my hometown art museum. He seemed so elusive, more precious than the celebrated greats with travelling collections. For years I had poured through books at the library, photocopied my favorite pieces to frame, saved to buy my own pristine copy of the book from his 1992 exhibition at the Whitney. When Reebok put his illustrations on shoes, I bought a pair of slip on Vans and drew his signature crown all over them. When Fab Five Freddie and Charlie Ahern came to town to show Wild Style, I asked them about him, about what it like to be his friend. I made my own Jean-Michel in my mind, and I had been satisfied with that.

Needless to say, it was the first time art made me cry. I wasn't expecting that, but I also wasn't expecting to see something brand new. After so many years of research I thought I had seen it all. Silly me! It was a brand new piece of art to my eyes, but oh so familiar. So loving and tender and unexpected. I recognized the eyes, I could see him adding final touches with a red acrylic paint stick. I wanted so badly to touch it, to give it a hug like a long lost friend. Instead I touched his name on the wall, I figured I couldn't get in trouble for that. It was surreal to see:

Jean-Michel Basquiat
(American, 1960-1988)
Valentine, 1983

I still cry when I think about seeing Valentine for the first time. I'm so thankful to have it here in my town. A little bit of my favorite artist, from his hands straight to my eyes. To be married to this precious work is a dream.

-Mayzie Jean Hart

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