Everybody Should Have Secrets (Ep. 139 - Imitation of Life)

This Week's Guest: Tim Kirkman

What are the secrets you're carrying around, and what would happen if you dropped them? This week's guest is Tim Kirkman, a storyteller with a knack for exploring the things people don't say. His film Lazy Eye is about confronting secret loves, and his documentary Dear Jesse is about his unexpected connection with America's most notorious homophobe. What Tim's found, in his work and in his life, is that the information people withhold about themselves is often the key to understanding them -- provided you can open up about yourself.

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This Week's Recommendation: Keith Haring

Big thanks to Tim for joining me. And check out his film, Lazy Eye, on all the major streaming and video services and at LazyEye.com.

My recommendation this week is as simple as doing a google search. Type in Keith Haring, click over to the images tab, and then just keep scrolling. You'll probably recognize Haring's more famous pieces -- two figures holding up a heart, a dog-headed DJ, that sculpture outside the Moscone Center. Early in his career, Haring would ride the subways in New York and draw chalk doodles in advertising space, which brought him a sort of cult following of commuters.

But you might not be as familiar with his later political art. That takes a bit more digging to find, since it's not quite so commercial: a man with a cross confronting a television, an anti-apartheid image of a large figure crushing a smaller oppressor, two men jerking each other off with the caption "safe sex."

Haring's work looks simple, but his causes weren't -- such as the time he painted unified figures on the Berlin wall in the colors of the German flag. His later paintings link capitalism to abuse. And then there's his collage work, accusing Ronald Reagan of being a killer -- made in 1980, a decade before Haring passed away in an epidemic fueled by Reagan's inhumanity.

If not for his political work, we might still remember Haring for his bright colors, his democratic approach to exhibiting art, and his whimsical figures. That stuff's all fun -- and, importantly, marketable. But it isn't urgent, and I have a feeling it might've gotten lost among imitators if he hadn't been willing to risk alienating casual observers with statements on HIV, racism, and economic exploitation.

The Haring we know from t-shirts and tote bags is simple, appealing, and pleasant. But Haring's best work is none of those things -- it's complex, challenging, aggressive. It's sophisticated -- despite being little more than a few outlines scratched in chalk.

Stuff We Talked About