Posts Tagged ‘Smith’

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.

File:Bison skull pile edit.jpg

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’ve been on a beat reading binge lately. I do this every now and again. I think it started when I read an essay [.pdf] comparing Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar with Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, and finally seeing the 2011 Walter Salles movie.

I then read a biography of Neal Cassady and Carolyn Cassady’s Off the Road and on and on. I’d really like to read this book about LuAnne Henderson – MaryLou in On the Road.

However the revelation this time was Big Sur… I thought I’d read it but I can’t have as it is just devastating. A term that sounds dramatic, but really I was so moved by Kerouac’s story. The enormity of it perhaps. There is a moment when Jack, feeling positive, takes a “huge deep Yogic breath” on the beach but instead of sea air is overcome with “a horror of an eternal condition of sick mortality…I see myself as doomed, pitiful

It’s worth a read


I have also been quietly working on a long-time project to be able to recite Ginsberg’s Howl. To this ended I follow @howltweeter on twitter which recites the poem endlessly in small chunks.

I have also been working on simply noticing

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I accidentally caught a news item tonight on the Power of Portraiture exhibition at Gus Fisher Gallery . “How we perceive leadership has changed over the years. The use of portraiture to reflect the image of ‘power’ and ‘authority’ has also had to change to reflect the differences in values and leadership styles.

I read a review over on EyeContact recently on this and Hurrell wrote “much of the show is plain dull. Just bad art that deserves to be tossed into an incinerator.” I guess that’s an understandable reaction to such a selection. Of course being in Auckland I haven’t seen the exhibition so I can’t comment too much about it. However I find portraiture on the whole creepy, and self portraits are worse. There’s that whole thing about being watched. This I found quiet disturbing in patches of the major Rita Angus retrospective at Te Papa earlier this year.

From what I have seen I was struck by some very conventional works. I quite liked the painting of Michael Savage as it seemed very straight forward and perhaps befitting the man? The other was Richard McWhannell’s portrait of Don McKinnon which was a little less formal and had a nice quality of light about it. Its all very weird because I just LOVE photographs of people, yet I would hesitate to have a painted portrait of someone on my walls.

Michael Joseph Savage by John A Berrie. [1937]

So from this weak start you may gather I have decided to continue with this blog. I am sure it will change with my move to Dunedin in mid January – maybe because I am hoping for a more rural outlook (and on that front I need lots of blog-reader long distance mojo right now to secure the house we are after). Also my recent cancer scare and other sad events this year, my perspective has been altered a little. It has been bought home to me that original art and more particularly owning it is something that must show up on “Stuff White People Like” (if it hasn’t already) and is hardly a socialist activity, unless maybe its your own art . I am also working on my “4 Things to do before I am 40” list, an anniversary that is approaching super fast (which is why the list has been shortened).

Amongst this I will still find art and it will continue to be an integral part of my life and you might read about it here. My motto will be from Ginsberg via Patti Smith “I noticed…”

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Its been a very busy week – more sorting and throwing out, trying to find a house to rent long-distance, making plans for next week’s eventualities, not getting to Art+Object preview (yet) etc. Also putting out some writing that is “off brand” for this blog, which made me realise I sometimes I feel confined by the arts topics here. Musing what to do about that – multiple blogs seems…complicated.

So here are some short items.

I keep watching this over and over. It’s so beautiful.

I realised that sometimes with photography its a combination of ‘a good photo’ and/or something special about the content. Here is an example:

Jacqui Baxter and John Baxter (photo from lianza [pdf])

I haven’t seen much political street art here – but this is nice


And since Art, Life TV, etchas started her Christmas List, here are my thoughts. To be honest I got the best Art Christmas present ever earlier this year – thanks again!! So here is something un-art related but evocative. I have a test card amongst the papers on my desk and every now and again when shuffling through things I get a little hint of this scent, and I start to wander.


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Discussions in the last few days have illustrated how, like me, there are many creative people (women) feeling frustrated by circumstance and a little starved of culture because of ‘domestic contraints’.

Now I can be a bit intolerant of stories of housewives emerging from their domestic coocons into creative butterflies because too often they are dismissive of families and partners, but in light of yesterday’s post I’d like to share this from a 1996 article about Patti Smith – which is somewhat different.

“Most surprising, to me, was a reference she made to a conversation she’d had with her late husband about the garbage disposal, in which she quoted him as calling her “Trisha.” This is clearly Smith’s altar ego: Trisha Smith, housewife, mother and part-time poet. We may not have suspected Trisha’s existence,  but I think we feared her nonetheless” 

So I suggest that when we feel down and in the creative doldrums we think about Trisha and Patti. And then maybe reach for the nearest Keri Smith book.

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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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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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