Winning Essay by David W. From Arizona Attending SAIC
For me, John-Michel Basquiat’s body of work represents an emotional culmination of decades of political, social and spiritual observations made in the late half of the 20th century through the eyes of a contemporary artistic genius. As a young man living in Brooklyn during the late 70’s John grew to prominence in the community through his public graffiti paintings featuring slogans and sentences that questioned common economic and social norms. 
Later in his artistic career, Basquiat’s work was displayed in galleries across the world, with retrospective shows and museums furthering his artistic legacy after his abrupt and tragic death. John-Michel Basquiat’s work was able to pierce the viewer and provide a window in which one could experience the raw, real and beautiful expression of what it means to be human living in a politically oppressive environment. Many of his paintings featured African American celebrities such as Sugar Ray Robinson in direct contrast to racial and environmental oppression and subjugation. I admire his courage in speaking his mind openly for the world to see. His work reveals the undercurrent of life that is not normally spoken about. His work historically represents the Neo-Expressionist movement at its highest point. Jean -Michel Basquiat’s work was incredibly unique and provocative for his time and he remains to be one of the most important painters of the 20th century.
 I first became familiar with Basquiat’s work a few years ago when I began to take my own artistic career and journey more seriously. I happened to find paintings such as “Philistines” and “Skull” that immediately held my attention and admiration. I had such a visceral and emotional reaction to these paintings that I remembered the name: JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT. It wasn’t until later on that I would find myself buying books of his life and work, studying them and being influenced by them. There was such a beautiful and haunting element to his work that really moved me and continues to do so. For me, his work was able to communicate this intangible, spiritual element of what it means to be alive and experiencing the world around us. His subject matter and techniques were so poetic that I took it in and wanted to do the same with my paintings. To this day, I find myself returning to my Basquiat books and enthusiastically reading and admiring his paintings. There is that aspect that remains impossible to articulate through words because it is more of feeling - a bodily and mental reaction to what I am seeing. It’s this feeling that I return to again and again. There is a very pristine and deeply emotional resonance of integrity. His work represents a Truth – an altruistic vision and observation of abused power. It is my only wish to do the same with my work, through my own eyes and my own experiences. Jean-Michel Basquiat’s paintings represent courage and integrity in the face of adversity. His work has helped me observe and better understand my own reality.

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