Patti Smith won the National Book Award for her beautiful new book on her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, Just Kids. I first encountered Mapplethorpe’s work as a thirteen year old at Barnes and Noble – quite innocently and it was and remains incredibly shocking! I didn’t encounter Patti Smith’s work until recently and now she seems to be everywhere at once! Last week she appeared over and over in a new but forgettable documentary of William Burroughs and now she writes this moving, inspiring and elegiac book. She tells, romantically, of a very different New York City than what I know and it’s particularly interesting because I work in the East Village and Lower East Side where Patti, Robert and Burroughs all lived in the 60′s and 70′s.
I love a couple of lines:
In my low periods, I wondered what was the point of creating art. For whom? Are we animating God? Are we talking to ourselves? And what was the ultimate goal? To have one’s work caged in art’s great zoos– the Modern, the Met, the Louvre?
I crave honesty, yet found dishonesty in myself. Why commit to art? For self-realization, or for itself? It seemed indulgent to add to the glut unless one offered illumination
In the war of magic and religion, is magic ultimately the victor? Perhaps priest and magician were once one, but the priest, learning humility in the face of God, discarded the spell for prayer.
I’m not sure artists today have the same bold visions or maybe they just aren’t happening in New York.