Art wall honoring Keith Haring promotes HIV/AIDS awareness

Neon construction paper was manipulated into cutouts of clean-lined designs, displaying art in honor of Keith Haring’s life as an artist and activist as well as HIV/AIDS awareness in the LGBTQ Resource Center this week in the Pollak Library.

Haring, a prominent artist in the ‘80s and ‘90s, is remembered as an advocate of the LGBTQ community for his art that challenged stigmas toward HIV/AIDS and the gay community, said Chris Datiles, the center’s coordinator.

He was born in 1958 and died in 1990 at the age of 31 from AIDS-related complications. Haring, an openly gay man, lived through the AIDS epidemic and ridicule of the ‘80s, but challenged stigmas surrounding the gay community through his artistic influence.

With simple artwork of bold lines and human figures in very dynamic poses, he created art in a time when the LGBTQ community was often targeted due to the AIDS crisis, said Albert Xiong, graduate student assistant for the center.

Before Haring passed away he worked with notable celebrities such as Andy Warhol, Madonna and Yoko Ono.

The art wall dedicated to Haring is one of several events planned to honor World AIDS Day, which falls on Saturday, Dec. 1. Datiles helped organize the art wall and shares the respect for Haring that is also felt by the community.

“The art wall is something that students are able to participate in. They get to use one of the stencils that our team created that is based on Keith Haring’s art,” Datiles said.

Haring’s art was so influential that many companies/galleries still sell his work. Xiong said he has seen many clothing companies feature his artwork.

“His artwork was very influential especially during the AIDS crisis because he would create pieces of work and depictions of empowerment, and many of his artworks were symbolic of homosexual liberation and acceptance,” Xiong said.

Even after his death, Haring continues to contribute to HIV/AIDS awareness and funding through the Keith Haring Foundation. Since his artwork is still in circulation, the foundation is still receiving profits from Haring’s sales.

“His work is still readily available. You can still find it online, you can find it in stores that utilize his art and work, so it can still be purchased to this day if people are interested in purchasing it,” Datiles said.

Shown through his relevance well after his death, Haring is a significant member of the LGBTQ community’s history, and not just because his art was aesthetically pleasing.

However, many stigmas from the crisis remain. Datiles said he feels that for this reason, HIV/AIDS awareness and education is still necessary today.

“There are still a lot of myths and misconceptions that you can contract HIV, AIDS or even STDs in a variety of ways,” Datiles said. “It’s important to demystify and debunk those for students so that they are not living in fear.”

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