i watched the documentary on jean michel basquiat last night.  one of my near and dear clients, paige, who worked for andy warhol during the height of his career, knew jean michel well, and even dated him back in the day.  i feel lucky to have heard some stories first hand.  but seeing the footage of him was different: personal, candid, intimately close, like the camera wasn't even there.  through the footage, his sly boyish smile and relaxed discourse, you could see who this man really was, or could have been, to all the people who knew him and loved him: vulnerable and mistrusting, wildly passionate and brilliantly intellectual, hidden somewhere behind the caricature of his image...that which the art world and media created, idolized and elevated to god-like proportions.  in the documentary, he was portrayed as both the man-about-town and a lonely isolationist, a manic existence ranging from the darkness of drugs to the joy of celebration.  it must have been a wild ride, going from homelessness to uncomfortable quantities of wealth nearly overnight, alienated from his peers by his fame.  "they're all mercenaries" he said, about art dealers and collectors, and i agreed, even now, seeing how far a little hype can go, how easily the critics galleries and collectors can build up someone's career just to destroy them.  he turned to heroin for comfort in a frenzied world that grabbed at his art and heart like kids scramble for candy from a broken pinata.  he turned to heroin, just as so many young wounded souls do, like so many, even my friends, even today.  but jean michel worked, worked hard, creating thousands upon thousands of paintings and drawings in the duration of his brief and truncated career.  he was no doubt a prophet, pained by the state of the world, his work honestly enduring and giving birth to generations of copycats. yes, it's true, seeing his work again made me want to paint more, paint impulsively, paint raw, paint like him.  but there will never be another jean michel.

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