Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Book by Patti Smith

Patti's new book, "Just Kids" is an amazing story of two poor artists, lovers living in NYC during the 1960's and 70's.  It won the National Book Award for non-fiction. Prior to reading this book, I didn't know anything about the life of Patti Smith. I certainly didn't know the story of her close and intensely personal relationship with the controversial photographer, Robert Mapplethorp. The two met in NYC when they were just 19 and starving newcomers to the city. They quickly developed a love relationship and a shared personal and artistic support system that lasted the rest of his life.

In 1989 I saw photographs by Mapplethorp and I was shocked by some of the images but I didn't know the story behind them. Mapplethorp died in about 1988 of AIDS. The gripping story of Patti and Robert's early years as struggling artists sheds light on their eventual divergent creative directions. She doesn't sugar coat how difficult life was for them. Living in New York and working to achieve artistic success was more challenging than I would have imagined. They lived on the edge of starvation for years. Not many people would have stuck it out but they did. Eventually, it paid off but not really in the way they had suspected.

Patti was a hard working woman and supported herself and Mapplethorp minimally for years by working in a bookstore. She also bought and sold used books with her developed knowledge of valuable collector's items. However, that wasn't always enough. When life became particularly difficult Robert started hustling in the streets at night. Both women and men were attracted to him.  He was beautiful. His raw and shocking images followed years of internal searching brought on by feelings that developed during this seedy period of selling himself to the highest bidder. Patti doesn't dwell on this other than to report her despair during this time. One can only imagine the desperation of such a life.

Even as they found other lovers, Patti and Robert continued to support each other as artists and friends. It's a tragic love story with an artistic twist.

Patti Smith

No comments:

Post a Comment