I recently came to Robert Mapplethorpe‘s photographs of Patti Smith from watching her 2007 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (inductee bio). And digging around, I’m finding images to be just as relevant to a discussion of Patti as is her music.
First, I started by reading about the documentary Patti Smith: Dream of Life screening now at Sundance. In a video on Salon she and the director talk about how there was no plan, no organizing concept to the filming. Thus, it took 11 years to shoot. There are some very “now” moments, though; Politico reports that the film “includes footage of Smith at various political rallies, making Bush-bashing speeches and protesting the war in Iraq.” Patti also performed a show in support of the premier (review here).
On the film’s website, there are pictures of a complementary art instillation at a gallery (exhibit now closed) called Objects of Life. Patti is also helping curate a show of her own photographs, drawings, and found objects in a gallery in Paris beginning in March. The Objects of Life show includes all manner of interesting things like a cast of William Blake’s face.
But the image that has stayed with me most is that of Patti Smith’s shoes. They evoke Vincent van Gogh’s A Pair of Shoes. (Other examples of his shoes paintings from the 1880s here here here here and three pairs here. Sorry the internet does such horrible flattening things to the colors and the brushwork.)
I’ve never been to Amsterdam to see the van Gogh in person. I know it from Fredric Jameson’s 1991 essay Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Jameson also refers to Andy Warhol’s Diamond Dust Shoes, and, to make things come full circle, Mapplethorpe did a portrait of Warhol that you can see here.