punk mandala

"Jesus died for somebody's 
sins but not mine
Meltin' in a pot of thieves
Wild card up my sleeve
Thick heart of stone
My sins my own
They belong to me, me"

patti smith has a lightening bolt tattooed on her knee. she is a joan of arc, she is a warrior. she is not just a muse. she is an artist, poet, musician, fashion icon, mother, and activist.

about a month ago a dear friend of mine, matt burns, wrote to me after having read my blog. he himself, is a designer and a musician and one who loves to be inspired (he is wickedly funny as well). matt had an inkling that patti smith's autobiography JUST KIDS would, in his words, "touch my soul." HE WAS RIGHT! i cannot believe that i have not delved into the work of this great artist until now. some may think patti smith is over the top when it comes to her music, and yes, she definitely walks to the beat of her own unique drum! but this is exactly what i find so appealing. she is an ever-inspiring icon to many who get where she is coming from.

patti smith was born in chicago, but shortly after moved with her family to rural south JERSEY where she was raised (a jersey girl like me). from an early age patti smith innately knew she had something creative inside which needed to emerge. her book begins with...

"When I was very young, my mother took me for walks in Humboldt Park, along the edge of the Prairie River. I have vague memories, like impressions on glass plates, of an old boathouse, a circular band shell, an arched stone bridge. The narrows of the river emptied into a wide lagoon and I saw upon its surface a singular miracle. A long curving neck rose from a dress of white plumage. 
Swan, my mother said, sensing my excitement. It patterned the bright water, flapping its great wings, and lifted into the sky. The word alone hardly attested to its magnificence nor conveyed the emotion it produced. The sight of it generated an urge I had no words for, a desire to speak of the swan, to say something of its whiteness, the explosive nature of its movement, and the slow beating of its wings.

The swan became one with the sky. I struggled to find words to describe my own sense of it. Swan, I repeated, not entirely satisfied, and I felt a twinge, a curious yearning, imperceptible to passersby, my mother, the trees, or the clouds."

patti + robert, nyc, 1962

JUST KIDS is patti smith's, magical yet brave story, of the beginning of her life as an artist and how this adventure unfolded back in the late 1960s. leaving her roots in new jersey, she moved to new york city with only a few art supplies, a small suitcase of secondhand clothes, and thirty-two dollars she found in a telephone booth for the bus ride. it is about the unconditional love affair between two young artists who met by fate, patti smith and robert mapplethorpe, also an iconic artist and photographer. bound in innocence and completely committed to each other and creating art; they steadfastly carved their way to fame, in a time where poetry, art, and rock n' roll were all colliding.

"Robert spread it out over the floor for me to see. there were drawings, etchings, and he unrolled some paintings that reminded me of Richard Poussette-Dart and Henri Michaux. Multifarious energies radiated through interweaving words and calligraphic line. Energy fields built with layers of word. Paintings and drawings that seemed to emerge from the subconcious.
There were a set of discs intertwining the words EGO LOVE GOD, merging them with his own name; they seemed to recede and expand over his flat surfaces. As I stared at them, I was compelled to tell him of my nights as a child seeing circular patterns radiating on the ceiling. He opened a book on Tantric art. "Like this?" he asked. "Yes."

I recognized with amazement the celestial circles of my childhood. A mandala.
I was particularly moved by the drawing he had done on memorial day. I had never seen anything like it. What also struck me was the date: Joan of Arc's feast day. The same day I had promised to make something of myself before her statue.

I told him this, and he responded that the drawing was symbolic of his own commmitment to art, made on the same day. He gave it to me without hesitation and I understood that in this small space of time we had mutually surrendered our loneliness and replaced it with trust."

flower by robert mapplethorpe

after reading JUST KIDS and falling in love with patti smith and her inspiring, and often times spiritual story, i needed more! while saturating myself with her music, specifically her debut album HORSES, and searching for more information about her,  i came across a beautiful documentary by steven sebring. the film called DREAM OF LIFE aired a few years back on PBS. of course I couldn't wait to share this with matt who watched it this past weekend and loved it. he wrote "it gave me a real sense of who she is and how she lives her life. very inspirational and moving. i love her natural way of being and sensitivity to everything that surrounds her. she's a true individual, not a follower...." (see i told you!!!) the moving film is a work of art in itself. it documents 12 years of patti smith's life, with clips from her early years in new york city to close to present time, giving a glimpse into her life, as not only an artist, but a wife and mother to her two children jackson and jesse.

(left to right) jackson, patti, and jesse at home, photo by annie leibovitz

patti smith is a legend; an early pioneer of punk rock. she is an artist's artist. she is the paragon of cool, yet she does not seem to have a celebrity air about her. she has integrity and she is sincere. patti smith is, as matt said, not a follower but completely individualistic. she believes and states at the opening of the documentary that "life is an adventure of our own design, intersected by fate, and a series of lucky and unlucky accidents." this cannot be more true. patti smith is definitely of her own design. these are prolific words to live by and a question we should all ponder. ARE YOU OF YOUR OWN DESIGN? 

i just don't think i can do patti smith's lyrically written autobiography or the documentary justice in this post. i have not given the whole story about her fascinating life so that you have the opportunity to uncover all the intricate details on your own accord. you have to experience her music, her poetry, her art to feel the mandala unfold. her story truly is poetic, spiritual, and beautiful. and i promise...it will definitely inspire you! xo nikki

dig this!
patti smith

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