The Bald Head Book and Big Eyes Movie: Wes Moore and MDH Keane
I ended up going to the Barnes & Noble Author Event that hosted Wes Moore’s new book The Work. He has a humble spirit-in-training for this new level of success and publicity. And he’s honest enough to show it. I appreciate that. An audience participant would say thank you and he’d gratefully reciprocate the gesture right back: “No, thank you. That was a great question.”
Wes Moore – The Work
It’s not fake. It’s not rehearsed. It’s quite genuine. And he took the time to answer all the questions that were thrown his way. The event coordinator had to give him a cue to take one more, but he said “let’s take these last three.” And we all agreed, glued to our seats. It was as if he was learning along with us, while answering with such wisdom and authority.
It was like watching a baker who’s asked by his apprentice what ingredients he used in the delicious batter. And while going down the list of exotic spices he lights up, as if discovering what he’s created for the first time.
It was a bit funny to listen to some of his extended family shamelessly toot their own horn in doing a phenomenal job raising him into the man he’s now become. Or friends rehashing personal talks to not necessarily shed light on a new perspective, but to merely express that they had the privilege of talking with this best-selling author in private!
The one person who could’ve and did have the right to strut their rearing stuff chose not to. His mother. She just joyfully observed and listened to her son. Quiet, but proud of him, no doubt. It was his moment. Not hers. And it was hers as well.
The way that Moore navigated through th Q&A’s was definitely respectful. Even his responses to the seemingly opportunistic comments that were cloaked as questions were fashioned in a way to deflect attention from both participant and Moore himself, and focus on the bigger picture—the message of his book.
Margaret Keane – Big Eyes
Wes’ demeanor reminded me of a biopic I watched earlier this week (If you haven’t caught on, I’m a bit of a cinephile). It’s called Big Eyes. Margaret Keane’s work is notable for the enlarged eyes she’d draw on her portraits. After marrying Walter Keane, she began selling her work under the name of her husband.
And he sure did go to town with her art. Exploiting every opportunity for personal financial gain and public recognition. He took all the credit for her work. Not to be harsh, but it reminded me of some of the Q&A participants at the Author Event.
Walter was a great salesman. Perhaps, Margaret might not have been as famous if it weren’t for his marketing prowess. But no matter how much he stole, the one thing he couldn’t take or even imitate was her ability to create these unique paintings.
It was fascinating how many of these pieces she cranked out. She was a machine. She is a machine! That’s right, she’s about 84 and still producing wonderful works of art. 60 years of painting under her senior fanny pack. Imagine that (minus the fanny pack; she seems too stylish for one of those).
Connection: Work and Humility
When I think of the bald writer (Wes is a clean-shaven U.S. army veteran and former financier) and the big-eyed artist (Keane doesn’t have big eyes, but she paints them), what connects them both is their work and humility. Moore didn’t seek to be famous, but rather his message to be widespread. Keane didn’t seek to exploit her talents for sole financial gain. Her husband did that. But like all artists, she has a deep desire to share a widespread message through her visual work. And it’s just beautiful how both Moore and Keane’s passion can now pay the bills and support others on philanthropic levels.
If you were to ratify the New Jim Crow law right now, treat Wes Moore as a criminal and lock him up without due process, I bet he’d still be writing. He’d still be speaking hope and inspiration behind bars. And if he couldn’t write or speak, he’d find a new medium to do that which he was born to do. And as a matter of fact, he spoke to another Wes Moore behind bars in one of his earlier literary works.
If you were to treat Margaret Keane as a scandalous woman, branded her white skin with a Scarlet Letter and then exiled her from community, she’d still paint. She’d still sketch. And strip her of the brushes and oils, she’d find a way to draw in the dirt and preserve her masterpieces to share her dirty artwork with others.
But It’s not enough to just be passionate about your work. You have to sustain a level of humility. A sub-level, rather. That’s how low the ego must go. And how do you do that? By choosing work that serves others. As Wes says, we’ve found our work “when our greatest passions begin to overlap with the world’s greatest needs.”