basquiat and the destruction of brilliance

I am currently reading “Basquiat” by Phoebe Hoban and it has givien me a better understanding of the artist.
Here is a synopsis of his life:
*He was born of a Puerto Rican mother and Haitian father.
*When Basquiat was young, his mother was placed in a mental institution
*He and his father never got along and Basquiat made claims of repeated child abuse
*His father favored dating white women and therefore most of Basquiat’s relationships were also with white women
*He was bisexual and on many occasions gave his partners gonorrhea
*He had a debilitating drug habit. He dabbled with heroin, cocaine, freebase and marijuana.
*He showed signs of artistic brilliance at a very young age and had very few friends.

So after reading about his past it is easy to understand SOME of his actions. Largely due to drugs, he created very destructive relationships with people where he would hunger for their company and then despise them for sticking around. He was always a victim of being used for his money, talent and body. He, however mistreated many of his girlfriends, sometimes having one girlfriend over while another one was showing up at the door and not even care about who it offended.

So prior to reading about Basquiat, I was also caught under his spell of brilliance. However, half way into the book, the same thought is on repeat in my mind that “he was a major jerk”.  How much of the way he treated people should be blamed on the effects of drug abuse?  And how much credit (if any) for his artistry did drug use attribute?

It has become a trend that when artists use drugs it puts them on a mental plane where they feel that they perform better. In many cases this rings true.  Bob Marley constantly smoked marijuana and every song he wrote was a classic.  He however did not die due to this habit; he died of cancer.
Billy Holiday – alcohol and heroin addict
Jimi Hendrix – a mixture of drugs and alcohol
Sly and the Family Stone / Parliament – LSD
Rick James – Cocaine
James Brown – heroine
Edith Piaf – morphine and alcohol
Dorothy Dandridge – anti-depressant
Chris Farley – cocaine and morphine
Phyllis Hyman – suicide involving lethal amounts of alcohol and temazepam
Janis Joplin – heroin overdose.
David Ruffin – cocaine
and the list goes on.

I pose this challenge to artists: If you are already using drugs, try and write, record or perform an album (or your form of artistic expression) sober and see if you are able to present an equally brilliant work. If this is the case then you are one step closer to recovery, if it is worse than your work while under the influence then I can only suggest …..



~ by galleryknowhere on March 10, 2009.

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