I was able to see the Keith Haring exhibit at the DeYoung this weekend. I was moved — not only by his story — but by his seemingly instinctual ability to remain present and communicate both the lessons he’s learned and his direction of discovery through only one piece of art. It showed that creativity cannot be forced, and that creativity cannot always be manifested outwardly. Instead, creativity is both an internal and external process, constantly modulating and oscillating between the internal to external.
In moments of internal creativity, which I’m certain Haring had, our hands and our voices may be silent, because the creative process is a mere mix of ideas and stimuli — thoughts provoking thoughts provoking thoughts — with no clear beginning or end in sight. This creative process can neither be measured nor quantified, but it’s process is still intricate and growth-oriented. In these times, however, it may seem that our minds are silent, that our creativity is silent, even though quite the opposite is true.
Much like a cake in the oven, slowly baking and mixing, eventually the intricate mixture of ideas and stimuli coagulates and creativity becomes external. Our internal and silent dialogue visibly manifests itself in the form of a product, and as a result, we have something to show for it. While we may be inclined to see these products as achievements, they are not. Instead, they serve as artifacts for unique moments that can never be recreated.
In fact, that was one of the most moving things about Haring’s work. He wasn’t focused on the products that are now able to fill an entire museum; on the contrary, Haring was focused on the creative process, and his relics were mere artifacts of that process — communicative stitches in the tapestry of his mind.
Haring showed that true creativity and true discovery are not achievements necessarily; instead true externalized creativity is the manifestation of synthesis. It’s the concrete representation of a lesson learned, a moment in time, and a piece of our individual stories that will only propel us further.
To create is to discover; to discover is to learn. And I think we can all learn something from Haring, especially in that sense.