Though I was only a kid at the time, I've always felt lucky that I got to observe a tiny part of the '80s NY art scene. My sister, Lizzie and I were raised in L.A., but my parents were in the fashion 'biz, so they spent much of the year in Manhattan, toting us along wherever they went. It's also hard not to be grateful for the Reaganomics that enabled us to live temporarily like Dudley Moore in Arthur, with a private chauffeur, who drove us to experimental off-Broadway musicals, cocktail parties in lucite-adorned apartments, and to Bloomies for black patent mary-janes, so we could look fancy for linguine and clams at Il Mulino.
Our memories of those days are so idyllic, I sometimes wonder if they were created in a cyber dream-chamber, a-la Vanilla Sky. Before the big recession in 1990, which hit the garment business pretty hard, Dad bought us five foot tall stuffed teddy bears and hot fudge sundaes at Rumplemeyer's, and Dom DeLuise sprinkled us with pastel confetti at the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, where we got to touch Garfield, as his giant balloon body floated up to hover above 34th St.. We didn't yet know of AIDS, or losing friends to heroin, and we didn't have to live solely on popcorn and Twizzlers, like Madonna, when she first arrived in Times Square. It was awesome to be a precocious kid bopping around the glitzy Apple.
My most treasured Manhattan memories, are when we headed Downtown to the Soho art galleries. It was Slaves of New York come to life, everything covered in polka-dotted crinoline, neon tubing, silver steel, fake fur, and florescent graffiti. But our minds were the most blown by Keith Haring's Pop Shop, which to two mini-Valley girls, was the Toys-R-Us of cool. Our parents were awesome enough to gift us each with a Haring tee, pin, and an inflatable "crawling baby" pillow. Sadly, all was lost in a house fire, though I did manage to rescue one of the pins.
So, when recently viewing the 2008 documentary, The Universe of Keith Haring (currently streaming on Netflix), I was thrilled to know the story of this hugely influential young artist's life. He left small town Pennsylvania to study at The School of Visual Arts in NYC, and in the process became obsessed with street art, mixing the bright, naive whimsicality of Nikki de Saint Phalle (his fave painter), with the rebel spirit of tagging he spotted on the trains and streets. Through his influences, he developed a commercially groundbreaking animated style that probably inspires more young artists today than any other contemporary artist, aside from Warhol.
Along with branding himself and opening the Pop Shop, he art directed major advertisements, designed album covers, styled musicians like Grace Jones (above) and Madonna, eventually becoming a social activist, throwing fundraisers for AIDS research, as well as creating memorable "Crack is Whack" and anti-Apartheid campaigns.
In December, we viewed the Warhol Headlines exhibit at D.C.'s National Gallery, and in the tabloid inspired installation were several fun Haring/Warhol pieces . . . gummy bear-colored silkscreens created by the artists as wedding gifts for Madonna and Sean. They were, of course, my favorite items in the show. Bringing back nostalgic feelings for a time and place that will forever live on, covered in day-glo rubber triangle jewelry, in my Stephen Sprouse spray-painted heart.