Have you ever thought that our planet might be the mental institution of the world we live in? American author Ray Bradbury once said “Insanity is relative, it all depends on who has who locked up in what cage.” We’re all a bit crazy on the inside, some more than others, we just can’t see that clearly since we are watching it too close. In the end, we all express the nut job within through different ways and art is one of the most beautiful forms of insanity.
Jean-Michel Basquiat, a North American artist, was considered insane by society, by psychologists, and by other artists. No matter who is looking at his work, that observer will find that the soul behind those paintings and artwork is very disturbed, which is completely true. Basquiat struggled in a time where the social gap between the wealthy and the poor and the black and white was very wide. The environment he lived in drove him to be expressive and to let out the loud voices of despair inside his head.
“The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they are okay, then it’s you” (Rita Mae Brown, American author). Just by looking at the painting below, we can see the conflict and struggle within the painter. In psychology and doodling analysis, the use of various colors in a drawing implies that the person drawing is very smart. The use of black is a symbol of fear and the fact that one hand has four fingers while the other has five shows inconsistency in the painter’s mentality. The use of sharp edges is a clear sign of anger and the use of red in the background emphasizes rage.
Another significant implication in the painting is that the artist is suicidal. All that conflict and the scribbles on the face of the portrayed figure all show signs of despair and depression. Basquiat did in fact die of a drug overdose in August 1988.
“No excellent soul is exempt from a mixture of madness” (Aristotle). We don’t need to go to a mental institution to find someone insane. Insanity is all around us and we are all probably one of the reasons why someone out there is insane. Basquiat’s suggestive dichotomies in his work about wealth, power, discrimination, colonialism, social class and politics were nothing but a cry for help. He was a frustrated man who carried so much rage that it drove him to taking his own life away. His Neo-expressionist, Primitivist style is one of the strongest social commentaries expressed and is still something to be remembered for many years to come.
Hamda AlHashemi is a 20 something year old interior design graduate, and an SZHP employee. She appreciates art, food, psychology and culture. For her, Arabic calligraphy is music for the eyes; beautiful and calming. She thrives to become an entrepreneur of her own furniture line and aims to get her Phd on the long run. Hamda’s articles revolve around how our psychological thoughts influence our actions, and how to use them to our advantage.