Many years ago I studied Jean Michel-Basquiat in High School. I was truly enamoured by the content and context of his work. In 2010 I watched the popular documentary based on his life by Tamara Davis. This documentary was incredibly eye opening to his talent, concepts, motivations and passion- yet, the affect his lifestyle had on his nearest and dearest was left quite elusive. (This is a must watch by the way).
No too long ago I picked up this book,and (you guessed it) didn’t put it down. It is based on the journey of Suzannes (One of Basquiat’s lovers) life and how it completely changed when she met Jean. Strangely authored by Jennifer Clement (A Mutual friend of there’s) but also has the inclusion of Suzannes esoteric moments of thought. Clement tells the story of the life and times in 1980’s New York; from racial resistance to art institutional critique. What did it mean to be a young black artist, creating, selling and taking complete ownership of his rhetoric in white institutions? After Clement cements the times, Suzanne relays story with her own words in more depth.
This book tells the recklessness of life in the Art world in 80’s/90’s New York City. Drugs, sex, art and addiction; contemplating that all of the above interlink. Both women interestingly share thoughts on feelings, emotions and attributes that compose when ‘stupid love’ gets out of hand. I can relate. She is completely naive through the entire story; she acknowledges this. But just like many other creatives she wanted to ‘make it’ herself and saw Basquiat as adrenaline, a drug. There is violence, abuse and separation that concludes with pieces of Art. Yet she stays,leaves,returns and decades later still calls the book ‘ A Love Story’. I can’t blame her.
Nevertheless, I can’t ruin it for those of you who want to read it. I will say that not only does this offer the knowledge of the Art Life but true life emotions. The demise of Basquiats life, with the inflation of his wealth made me really question the quality of living.
I recommend this book for all artists, writers; all around creatives. This makes you ponder on what it means to live a life vicariously through creativity. Why are you creating? What is your sustenance? Can you love romantically and have full focus on your creativity? What is my definition of making it?
Those are a few questions that have been evoked from reading this. Let me know your thoughts, when you’ve read it!