Sunday, May 1, 2011

Art Blog: KEITH

It took me a few days. I had to think about all this. I felt so wounded and sad. This is how much he meant to me. I am ready to speak now.

I remember that very first time I saw Keith. I didn’t like him. I didn’t want to hear about him at all. He was being introduced by a professor that was part of the “good ole boy” network. I was a bit militant back then, so I didn’t want to acknowledge or accept another rave about some MALE artist who was being inducted into the club. Screw that. So I cleaned my brushes or daydreamed during the introduction. NOPE. I wasn’t going to have any of it.

This guy kept hanging around. I saw him everywhere. He would be lurking around the art department administration area. Then, I would see him in the Old Main painting studio. Another time, I would see him at an art opening. I thought he was cute. He was so little. I like little.

Despite his genius that I am sure he was aware of, he was never loud or obnoxiously outspoken. He would only speak when it seemed necessary. When he did speak, there was a glowing light coming from his mouth. It was like a glowing beam of brilliance. This is why he finally caught my ear. His words were deep, substantial, and worth the listen. Keith was all about creativity, concepts, thinking outside of the box, pushing art to new levels and limits. He made my head turn, finally. I realized this wasn’t about gender. This was about ART. He won me over.

We were never great friends. He went his way; I went mine. Yet he never left my mind. He was such an outstanding person. I've thought about him for decades. I always wondered what happened to him. I wondered what he was doing. Our lives brushed against each other and I didn’t realize years ago how he was one of many people whose brush would BRISTLE me. His art life energy was contagious. I accepted the infection with open arms.

So the moral of this story is to get on with IT. Whatever “it” is, do it now. I will always remember Keith and what he stood for. Of course when I die, that memory will fade along with me. That is why I am writing this all down now. We all affect each other. Whether you realize it or not, our sheer presence and actions can help to change people. Keith did that to me.

I hope you will all remember this and pass it along. This is how memories stay alive.

Keith Aoki


Photo Credit: Dirk Bakker, Detroit Institute of Arts

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