Thursday, December 29, 2011

Like a Song, She Came Out of Nowhere

by Drew Martin
Tomorrow is Patti Smith's 65th birthday. I did not know much about her - she was simply a figure carved into America's cultural landscape with Dylan, Hendrix and Kerouac. On Monday, I watched Black White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff + Robert Mapplethorpe. Interviewed in this documentary, Patti was pivotal in these men's lives and influential to the evolution of photography as art. The next morning, I watched her online Princeton University lecture: Picturing Robert: Remembering a friendship and artistic relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe and then a friend and I talked about her and we listened to her songs. We went out for a late lunch and midway through our meal Patti walked right by our window, smiling and wet from the rain. What made an impression on me about her in the two videos was not her relations with Mapplethorpe and Wagstaff, or her music and their photos, but hearing her talk about her first aesthetic experiences; wanting to have her hot chocolate in a delicate china cup instead of the synthetic ware her mother used and also understanding how different a Vogue photo was compared to her class photos.