Patti Smith’s Just Kids, which came out in 2010, chronicled Smith’s early career and how she made her break into the New York City art and punk scene. She tells the story of finding her love for poetry, writing, and for music while exploring the dynamics of a romantic relationship with her lover, Robert Mapplethorpe, who died of AIDS in 1989. While he was in a complicated relationship with Smith, he struggled with his own sexuality.
Mapplethorpe was an incredible photographer and artist who, through his art, examined themes of BDSM, nudity, sexuality, in addition to using other mediums of art.
His exhibition, The Perfect Moment, sparked a national debate in the United States surrounding constitutional rights of free speech. The debate raged on regarding what is the fine line between obscene and foul imagery.
Patti Smith and Mapplethorpe lived together for a while in New York City, and while they did share romantic feelings as well as a bohemian lifestyle, it was mostly a platonic relationship that saw the two help one another expand within their own artistic expressions.
At the opening of Patti Smith’s exhibition, Camera Solo, at Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Patti Smith read a letter to Robert Mapplethorpe intended for him to read before he passed away. Camera Solo, which was Smith’s first show, explores Mapplethorpe’s work.
Unfortunately, Mapplethorpe was not able to read the letter that Smith wrote to the late photographer, sadly succumbing to his illness before he could raise his eyes to her mesmeric words. Within the letter, Smith acknowledges that she learned so much from him and that his artistic sensibilities still live within her work.
“You drew me from the darkest period of my life, sharing with me sacred mystery of what it is to be an artist,” Smith began. “I learned to see through you and never compose a line or draw a curve that does not come from the knowledge I derived in our precious time together,” she added.
The letter is tragically beautiful and heartbreaking. But what is more heartbreaking is watching Smith read the letter, knowing that she never got to say goodbye to her best friend and lover.
You can watch the video of her reading, below.