Happy 2017! The last few weeks of 2016 were busy, busy, busy and culminated in a road trip down to Virginia, to spend the holidays with my folks and extended family. It was so nice to have some time at home with the people I love (not to mention all the great food!), and I can’t wait for my next trip home, or at the very least, an escape from the city for a couple of hours.
Many car trips for us around the city mean passing the Crack is Wack mural, painted by the artist Keith Haring on an abandoned handball court at 128th St and 2nd Ave along Harlem River Drive up in East Harlem. Composed of his signature abstract forms and bold outlines, the mural is huge and pretty hard to miss, which was exactly the point – Haring chose the spot because it was clearly visible from the highway, making it almost identical to a billboard, and the perfect venue for him to speak out against the overwhelming crack epidemic of the 1980s in NYC.
Haring was personally inspired by his long-time studio assistant, Benny, who became dangerously addicted to crack in 1984 (he ultimately beat his addiction). His art expressed heavy concepts of birth, death, war, politics and sex, becoming a universally recognized representation of the issues plaguing the 20th century. Along with contemporaries Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kenny Scharf, Haring was a member of the alternative art community that was developing in the downtown city streets in the 1970s and 80s, which was a departure from the traditional museum and gallery scene more common in the art world.
The version of the mural we see today isn’t actually Haring’s original design, it’s a second version he painted, as the first one was removed pretty quickly. You see, when Haring first painted his mural he didn’t have permission from the city to do so, and after finishing, was promptly fined $100 by the NYPD for vandalism (coincidentally, he was also smoking a joint at the time, but was not fined for that…). Luckily for the NYPD, they didn’t have long to wait before the mural had to be dealt with – it was defaced (to read: “crack is it”) and consequently painted over. After all that, it was determined that the space was actually controlled by the parks department, a group that was much more appreciative of Haring’s art, and they asked him to return and repaint, resulting in the current mural, one of Haring’s most famous public pieces.
This crackly (wink, wink) banana bread (courtesy of baking goddess Deb) gets its slight crunch from a ¼ cup uncooked millet, a mild and sweet grain that I really should be baking and cooking with more! Millet takes one of my favorite breakfasts/snacks over the tip-crackly-top here (!) and I guarantee you won’t regret rushing to the kitchen to get this in the oven ASAP!