Artist Keith Allen Haring (1958-1990) was born on this day in Reading, Pennsylvania. With a passion for the art of Walt Disney and Dr. Seuss, he began drawing at a young age.
"Art should be something that liberates your soul, provokes the imagination and encourages people to go further," he once said.
In 1981, he discovered what he called "the perfect place" to draw: the New York City subway stations. He began drawing on the matte black panels that covered expired advertising. Quickly created, with an instantly recognizable style, he made thousands of chalk drawings as crowds of commuters watched.
"It was this chalk-white fragile thing in the middle of all this power and tension and violence that the subway was," Haring explained in a 1989 Rolling Stone interview. "People were completely enthralled."
Fame came quickly. Seeking to make his art accessible, he created an animation for the Times Square Spectracolor billboard. His international murals and 1986 painting at the Berlin Wall gathered critical acclaim. His work radiated with pure energy that celebrated spontaniety and a youthful innocence.
"Red is one of the strongest colors, it's blood, it has a power with the eye," he said. "That's why traffic lights are red I guess, and stop signs as well... In fact I use red in all of my paintings.”
A tireless advocate for children, he established The Keith Haring Foundation in 1989 to assist AIDS-related and children's charities just before his own tragic death from AIDS at the age of 31.
"There is nothing that makes me happier," he said, "than making a child smile."
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