Shots by Smith’s lover and soul mate: Robert Mapplethorpe.
Mapplethorpe was born in 1946 and grew up as a Roman Catholic of English and Irish heritage in Floral Park, Queens, New York. He was an American photographer, known for his works featuring celebrities portraits, male and female nudes, self-portraits and still-life images of flowers. His most controversial work are considered the underground bondage and sadomasochistic scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s of New York.
Patricia Lee Smith was born in Chicago in 1946. She became a highly influential component of the New York City punk rock movement with her 1975 debut album “Horses”.
Smith's most widely known song is "Because the Night", which was co-written with Bruce Springsteen.
Patti and Robert were peers. She moved to New York from South Jersey in 1967. One fateful night they met in Tompkins Square Park: the rest is epic history.
In Smith’s memoir, “Just Kids”, published in 2010, she rectifies, throughout her personal storytelling, certain mistaken notions about the pair, revealing that they were not drug addicts but dreamers, more human and loving than their cold, isolated stares and sharp, skinny
bodies in early photos.
In 1969, she moved in with Mapplethorpe. “The Chelsea was like a doll’s house in The Twilight Zone, with a hundred rooms, each a small universe,” she writes. “Everyone had something to offer and nobody seemed to have much money. Even the successful seemed to have just enough to live like extravagant bums.”
Art didn’t make the rent, so Patti kept clerking and shoplifting, and Mapplethorpe began to hustle on the East Side. He continued his relationship with Patti and told his parents that they had been married in a strawberry field in California.
When Andy Warhol met the pair later, he initially dismissed them as “dirty” and “horrible”. Some years later, Mapplethorpe began to hang out with a male model from London. Patti used to watch him nervously as he prepared to go out. “He chose everything carefully. The colored handkerchief he would fold and tuck in his back pocket. His bracelet. His vest. And the long, slow method of combing his hair. He knew that I liked his hair a bit wild, and I knew he was not taming his curls for me.”
Mapplethorpe didn’t tell Smith that he was gay. He wept when he confessed. “I loved Robert” she says, her eyes tearing up. “When we were together, he didn’t tell me about his exploits, and I didn’t talk to him about other people. When we were together, we were with each other.”
Smith left New York for Detroit in 1979 just as Mapplethorpe’s career as one of the most shocking and famous art photographers was reaching its apogee. “We used to laugh at our small selves, saying that I was a bad girl trying to be good and that he was a good boy trying to be bad. Through the years these roles would reverse, then reverse again, until we came to accept our dual natures. We contained opposing principles, light and dark.” By then Smith had already risen to international fame as a rocker. Her book follows Mapplethorpe all the way to his death in 1989 from complications due to AIDS.
“I learned from him that often contradiction is the clearest way to truth” (P.Smith)
Ken Moody and Robert Sherman, 1984