20th Century and Contemporary, Books, Museums/Exhibits, Notes from the Field, Performing Arts, Photography, YUP News

Notes from the Field: Patti Smith’s Shooting Star

We saw a shooting star in the sky on our late drive back from Hartford, Connecticut, on October 20th. Seeing such an astronomical marvel is special on any occasion, but this sighting was particularly poignant. We were returning from the Wadsworth Atheneum’s opening of an exhibition of photographs by Patti Smith. Yale University Press has the privilege of co-publishing the book’s accompanying exhibition catalogue, Patti Smith: Camera Solo.

Robert Mapplethorpe’s slippers at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

Engaging, intimate, and poetic, Smith’s photographs are akin to “diary entries” of her life.  After the opening reception in the Wadsworth’s impressive lobby, Smith (joined by her daughter Jesse and longtime band member Lenny Kaye) gave a benefit concert for the museum and to celebrate Arthur Rimbaud’s birthday. Rimbaud is one of Smith’s many revered sources of inspiration. Others include William Blake and Virginia Woolf, from whose writings she read carefully selected excerpts between songs. She sang tributes to her mother and  father, who met in New Haven. And, of course, her beloved Robert Mapplethorpe was ever present; Smith read from a letter that she had written to him before he died. And, we all left knowing that we had witnessed an extraordinary artist—a shooting star—from whom much light will continue to emanate.

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