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Posts Tagged ‘Mapplethorpe’

I have a new job and a major difference from my old job is the lack of a uniform. This is NOT good. I loved my uniform. Not because of what it stood for but a) I suit navy and b) it meant I didn’t have to think about clothes.

I am not a fashionable girl.

In fact in times past when I haven’t had a uniform, I’ve adopted one. e.g. when I was a Mum at home with three small children – T-shirt and jeans. IT person (and cable fairy) jeans and shirts. So I’ve been pondering what sort of pseudo uniform I could have now and this got me thinking about uniform & designers.

Exhibit one: The Air New Zealand Trelise Cooper Uniform. Its ok. I guess it works. I am not a Trelise fan.  In fact I over heard a funny conversation the other day in an op shop.

Manager “What a hideous blouse”

Assistant “But it’s Trelise!”

Manager “I guess its marvellous then”

Much laughter

So sorry but my uniform won’t be Cooper, my needs are more practical, less flouncy. I guess that means Alexander McQueen is out. Now I have to say I liked Mr McQueen’s designs of old because…well…they were artful..but not really for me. But isn’t this lovely? Owes quite a bit to the photography but still…

But the whole McQueen continuum following his death is creepy and as well a US$300 skull scarf is not me; Kmart has cotton knockoffs for $5 and skulls have been so done …

Robert Mapplethorpe, ‘Self-Portrait’ 1988
Robert Mapplethorpe (1988)

The only thing I have decided I would wear daily, if it was acceptable, is not a sculptural Isabella Blow hat but this:

In fact I am making one.

I think the Amish, Mennonites are on to something. Although plain dress and other garb related to religious observance is often considered restrictive and sometimes a form of control, I personally can see immense freedom in it.

Bring me a uniform (or at the very least a shrubbery).

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In the stress of life and a new job, I have frequently found myself at 3am worrying about work. My remedy has been to listen to audio books which I find soothing and I manage to get back to sleep. I should add at this point that a recording of Ginsberg reading ‘HOWL‘ did  not have this effect.

However my recent late night/early morning sorry has been Patti Smith reading her book “Just Kids“. There is an intimacy in an audio book read by the author, it felt like Patti was telling her (and Robert’s) story directly to me. I was surprised at her accent (yella, fella etc) and affected by her vulnerability. In fact, yesterday morning at 5am I found myself weeping as the story drew to a close with Sam Wagstaff’s and then Robert Mapplethorpe’s deaths. Yesterday was that kind of day and the book on reflection is full of reminders of our mortality.


Patti and Robert lifted from here

It is an old story. I watched a film a while back that is an intersection with Just Kids.  Black White + Grey, is mainly about Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe’s relationship. Ron Brownson has written about this here and I agree it was sad not have more focus on Wagstaff and his amazing collection of photography (which Smith details the beginnings of in Just Kids). I have been dreaming of black and white photographs of American Bison since: the great herds of the great plains of the west, now as non existent as the New York of the 1970s that Smith and Crump document.

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A pile of American Bison skulls waiting to be ground for fertilizer: photographer unknown, mid-1870s (image by Chick Bowen, 27 May 2011)

I hate the concept of ‘bucket lists’ and yet I sort of have one. Sadly often the things I want to see or do don’t exist or can’t happen. For example I wanted to stay at the Chelsea Hotel (a feature of the Just Kids story and many others) but it has been bought out and closed. “ A property developer recently bought the down-at-heel building for $80 million (£48 million) and has turned it over to an architect best known for designing bland Holiday Inns.” Gone the way of the bison, ground into fertiliser.

[This post was written to a soundtrack of Smith’s “Horses” and aided by strong black coffee.]

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I have been thinking for days how to frame my next piece and finally while watching “Patti Smith: Dream of Life” last night I got it. A review reads “Patti Smith is fascinating, but this documentary Is unfocused and wandering“. I disagree with the unfocused, but I’ve decided that wandering is sometimes a fine approach.

After my visit to the Rita Angus exhibition, I was feeling a bit tense and felt compelled to race upstairs and visit with Colin and let the Northland Panels work their magic on me. I also wandered about to see other favourites and I had the revelation that “I AM” is an anthem in a way. Anyhow this was a good way of switching mindsets before attending the Writer’s Read event at Massey University to hear Martin Edmond.

I have a great deal of admiration for Martin’s writing and am a frequent reader of his Luca Antara blog and find his books the kind that I often return to. Ingrid Horrocks was chairing the session and described some of his writing as “prose poems” which I think is true, for example this. His work does range over a broad scope of subjects and landscapes as well as genres, which was mentioned in Greg O’Briens article in the latest Listener on the state on NZ literature. For me there is a dream-like quality in the writing. It was a pleasure to meet Martin and listen to him read some familiar and new pieces. Also for me (the suburban shut-in who actually hasn’t been out for a whole evening in 2+ years!) the evening was a great social occasion with intelligent, stimulating conversation, good food and interesting people. I now have all sorts of new avenues to explore (including ‘outsider art’). Thanks to all!

And so to Patti. I came to her late – I wasn’t a teen that endlessly played “Horses”. I think I discovered her via Robert Mapplethorpe and then her poetry rather than the music. This documentary, I think fits her very well. It took over 10 years to make and is full of loosely connected moments, across her life, poetry, music, art, politics and more. Perhaps, because of my association of her and Mapplethorpe, the moment of her opening a tiny Persian urn and spilling his ashes (‘remains’) into her hand was startling, touching and sad. If you have any interest in Smith – see this film.

Robert’s urn

And maybe because its been a literary few days, her poem/song “Spell” (Holy) really struck me

“…the madman is
holy as you my soul are holy!
The typewriter is holy the poem is holy the voice is
holy the hearers are holy the ecstasy is holy!
Holy Peter holy Allen holy Solomon holy Lucien holy
Kerouac holy Huncke holy Burroughs holy Cassady…

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Bonanza!

In the interests of actually getting a post up today we are reduced to the contents of my book bag. Life is getting in the way of blogging right now but hopefully something more meaningful tomorrow.

So a great haul at the library today when two books I requested they buy came in for me at once plus some others I had on reserve.

Rita Angus: An Artists Life. Yay I don’t have to furtively read it bit by bit at the bookshop anymore. And I see the exhibition catalogue is due out.
the $12 million stuffed shark

Kin of Place by CK Stead – just so I can get background on some literary bun-fights
Wellington a City for Sculpture – maybe an explanation for the littering of the streets with 3D artwork

Also got the video “Peter Peryer. Portrait of a Photographer” which is interesting but something of an ‘elephant in the living room’ viewing experience for me – not sure why though.

In other news happily I have located a source of polaroid 600 film which may last a while since it is not being made any more. More interesting is an exhibition of Polaroids by Mapplethorpe. “The beloved instant photograph could not have hoped for a better sendoff than the Whitney’s exhibition of Robert Mapplethorpe’s Polaroids. During his 20s, between 1970 and 1975, Mapplethorpe made more than 1,500 photographs with Polaroid cameras.”


Robert Mapplethorpe’s “Untitled (Patti Smith),” a 1973 Polaroid.

Speaking of Patti, I think her song “People have the Power” has special meaning today when we lost Poneke’s voice of sanity on the blogosphere.

That the people have the
power to redeem the works
of fools

Upon the meek the graces shower
it’s decreed
the people rule.

The people have the power

 I *think* I remember her reading this as a poem (on Jools Holland’s show?). very powerful – would love it if anyone could locate it on Youtube or something.

EDIT: Poneke is Back – and blogging about art :-)


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Firstly I have to admit I haven’t read Proust. I do know a little about the themes (which I suppose makes this is a bit like “How to talk about books you haven’t read“) but his ideas of memory seem to apply somewhat to my feelings towards photography.  The photos that resonate for me and draw an emotional, often visceral response and transport me to a place from my memory. However, memory is unreliable and sometimes maybe I am responding to something imagined, a dream or a nightmare.

So yesterday I got out a few books, Laurence Aberhart’s ‘domestic architecture’  and “Contemporary New Zealand Photographers” and also a video about Annie Liebowitz. The South Bank Show episode on Liebowitz was a disappointment as it was made at the height of the celebrity Hollywood portraits, although it did look at the Rolling Stone work and had an interesting interview with Hunter S Thompson. I remember an exhibition of her work at the City Gallery some time ago (1997!) that seemed much broader and her book “Women” is excellent. Also just take a look at this portrait. I personally think it says a lot. There is a good commentary about this photograph here from the Guardian.

leibovitzqueen.jpg

Mind you, to me you couldn’t better the Mapplethorpe exhibition at the City Gallery in 1996. I don’t why I like his photographs so much when they are simply a different world. Maybe it appeals to my voyeuristic nature?

So back to the New Zealand photography. Aberhart’s house’s are great and appealed because I also love what I call “wedding cake houses” the Art Deco flat roofed NZ style that features largely in the book. I used to live in a ‘nest’ of them in historical Savage Crescentin Palmerston North. That development is quite amazing in itself. Ernst Plischke was one of the architects.

Anyway that reminded me of a book I have “Images of a House” by Robin Morrison, another NZ photographer that I am fond of. His ‘Sense of Place’ was exactly that for me and many of his photos capture the South Island of my childhood memories.

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The slighty sepia toned photos in “Images of a House” capture something I can’t quite put into words. Even though the house is occupied there is a late afternoon, dusty loneliness.

Another photograph that caught my eye recently was this (on trademe!) :

jkbphoto.jpg
JAMES K. BAXTER HAVING BREAKFAST AT JERUSALEM ON THE WHANGANUI RIVER

This image appeared in the book “James K. Baxter: A Memorial Volume 1926-72” with text by Michael King, Maurice Shadbolt, Tim Shadbolt and others.  Its says photographer unknown.

For a more recent view of photography the Contempoarary NZ book was great. Many of the images entered into the dream/nightmare category for me for example Yvonne Todd.

Speaking of Todd, nice to see a partial(?) list of proposals submitted to CNZ  for the 2008 Venice Biennale at Over the net. I cannot understand why an official list cannot be made available. Its public money surely? Lots of analogies have been made but you wouldn’t see his kind of thing happening with the major book awards.

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