Friday, July 8, 2011

Just Kids by Patti Smith A Book Review and a Sketchbook too

 Each Tuesday I pick up my friends Robert and Elizabeth at the Long Island Railroad Station.  They are coming from Chelsea, in Manhattan, NYC. We drive over the bridges to the Robert Moses Beach.  This is a book that Robert was reading and when he finished he loaned it to me.    There were so many things in Patti Smith's book that we all remembered.  She was born December 30, 1946, two days before New Years Day, 1947, which is my birth date.
 There were many references in her story that were date markers for our growing up days.  The songs that she mentioned, the artists, both in music and the Pop Art Era, were names that we heard daily. The tragedies she describes, the deaths of our heroes, the Vietnam War, political and social movements, brought back our young adulthood.
 I went to the University of Buffalo, the furthest New York State University from my hometown on Long Island.  We all needed to get away and grow up to be our own selves.   These are pages from one of my art school sketch books from that time.  She mentions Allen Ginsburg, Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, and the Fugs.  All of whom I saw in those magical days.

 My roommate, an English major, had classes with several of the Beat Poets of the Day.  We would go to poetry readings where they read their yet unpublished poems off the backs of Manila folders and envelopes.  I went to a reading given by Ed Sanders one of the Fugs, on campus in a portable classroom one afternoon.

I made these sketches while he was reading from a pile of papers.

In that same sketchbook there were drawings from a rally in a Buffalo downtown auditorium for George Wallace.  We went in opposition to him, but the boos were translated into cheers by the time the video aired on T.V. that night.  I realized then that the news could be turned upside down by the press in either direction.

When I returned to Long Island, there was a rally in our town park by the gazebo.
Bell bottoms and long flowing hair was the rule in 1969.  There was so much going on during the 1960's, that it was very hard to realize how deep the influences of those events were going to be.   I have had a camera in my hands since I was a brownie scout.  In college I took a year's worth of photography from Donald Blumberg.  We used Yashica D cameras with a 2 1/4" format to learn on.  In 1969, he took the whole class to the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY to see one of the first art photographic exhibitions.  Prior to that photography was not generally considered a "fine art", rather a commercial endeavor. 
When I returned to Long Island, the first thing I did with the little money that I had saved from babysitting, was to purchase a Nikon F camera.  I took thousands of photos with those two cameras.  The  Yashica, which I still own, has been lent to other students, including Robert & Elizabeth's daughter.  The first Nikon F was stolen, but replaced later and is still in the house.  Now I use digital Nikons. We were all just kids.

Just Kids, by Patti Smith, is a touching recount of the entwined lives of two artists, Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith, and the world that their talents evolved within.


Bella Bheag said...

A vey interesting post about interesting times. Great to have those memories and how lovely to still have your sketch pad to enhance your memories of past times.

acornmoon said...

I must look out for that book. How lovely to have kept your student sketchbooks. The people you mention and the places are so evocative of that era, the essence of the sixties. How fortunate to have been a part of it.