Fated to Die Prematurely

“He was as fated as Byron, Shelley, and Keats to die prematurely, the same as James Byron Dean, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and his famous look-alike, the poet-singer of the perverse, Jim Morrison of The Doors”

Jack Fritscher
Mapplethorpe: Assault with a Deadly Camera

 

Self-Portrait, Robert Mapplethorpe, 1980

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As If in The Act of Blessing

«…Dürer portrayed himself as the Christus. Robert often fantasized and photographed himself as the Christus.»

Jack Fritscher
Mapplethorpe: Assault with a Deadly Camera

 

Portrait of Patti Smith by Robert Mapplethorpe, 1986

 

Self-Portrait at Twenty-Eight Years Old Wearing a Coat with Fur Collar, Albrecht Dürer, 1500  

 

Painted early in 1500, just before his 29th birthday, it is the last of his three painted self-portraits. It is considered the most personal, iconic and complex of his self-portraits, and the one that has become fixed in the popular imagination. The self-portrait is most remarkable because of its resemblance to many earlier representations of Christ. Art historians note the similarities with the conventions of religious painting, including its symmetry, dark tones and the manner in which the artist directly confronts the viewer and raises his hands to the middle of his chest as if in the act of blessing.

 

Blessing Christ, Hans Memling, circa 1433–1494  

 

Dürer chooses to present himself monumentally, in a style that unmistakably recalls depictions of Christ—the implications of which have been debated among art critics. A conservative interpretation suggests that he is responding to the tradition of the Imitation of Christ. A more controversial view reads the painting is a proclamation of the artist’s supreme role as creator. This latter view is supported by the painting’s Latin inscription, composed by Celtes’ personal secretary, which translates as; “I, Albrecht Dürer of Nuremberg portrayed myself in appropriate [or everlasting] colours aged twenty-eight years”.

Objects that Must Be Protected

Louise Bourgeois, photographed by Robert Mapplethorpe, 1982

 

“Everything I loved had the shape of people around me—the shape of my husband, the shape of the children,” Louise Bourgeois has said. “So when I wanted to represent something I love, I obviously represented a little penis.” In the 1960s Bourgeois began constructing hanging sculptures and using a variety of materials—here plaster and latex—to create organic, fleshy sculptures that recall the human body.

 

Fillette, Louise Bourgeois, 1968

 

Fillette (Sweeter Version), Louise Bourgeois, 1968-89

 

The title of this emphatically phallic sculpture means ‘little girl’, an ironic disjunction of word and object. In fact, while it most obviously represents a phallus, it can can also be seen as a female torso. In this in this reading, the two round forms are the tops of two legs, attaching to their hip joints. This eliding of genders creates ambiguity, as do the work’s dual qualities of erect potency and fragile vulnerability.

Bourgeois has talked about this work in relation to her experiences as a wife, and a mother to three boys, which led her to see masculinity as far more vulnerable than she had imagined. ‘From a sexual point of view I consider the masculine attributes to be extremely delicate’, she explained. ‘They’re objects that the woman, myself, must protect.’

An Ambiguous Shade of Something Else

Photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe from 1983 to circa 1986

 

“Robert was not a literal person.
Everything he saw was an ambiguous shade of something else.
He was a metaphorical person. The irony was he took photography, which is a literal person’s perfect way to show life in snapshots, and raised the single frame to a metaphor.
A Mapplethorpe lily is not a lily is not a lily*.
This is trick photography shot by a trickster.
Now you see it.
Now you don’t.
Now, if you’re lucky, you do.
Senator Jesse Helms never got it.
Helms probably thought that Robert’s drop-dead flowers, always actually more explicit than his human nudes, were, uh, flowers.
And not the sex organs of plants or, omigod, phallic and vaginal symbols!
Metaphor is a problem for fundamentalists clamming up the hard shell.
Robert captured the essence of flowers, figures, faces, and fetishes so resonantly on the literal level that the very perfection of the moment frozen in the single frame caused the very being of the object to suggest its own becoming… other.
That capturing of the suggestive instant of becoming ambiguous was his existential magic.
Elegant flowers become sexual organs,
The shadow of a flower becomes the horned god.
Sexuality becomes theology.
Face becomes mask.
The mirror becomes window.
Life becomes death.
The cross becomes the crown.
Light becomes dark.
The looking glass makes the way out become the way in: the anal insertions.
This spinning ambiguity causes fear in the literal-minded who look at his single-shot metaphors…

…He intended his stills to be “moving” pictures, photographs that “moved” the viewer, through assault if necessary, for the viewer’s own good, the way one slaps someone who is hysterical.
Every Mapplethorpe photograph is a single frame in a movie, which, if it existed, would be a series of dissolves:
The lily dissolves to the genitalia,
The face to the skull,
The skull to the lily.
Although versed in film and video, Robert consciously kept with the discipline of the single-frame still camera.
Robert was a Platonist: he saw the real and he saw the ideal.”

Mapplethorpe: Assault With a Deadly Camera
Jack Fritscher

 

*Praraphrase of Gertrude Stein’s sentence “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.”

A Floral Sex Symbol

Signatura rerum (The Theory of signature), orchids images from G.B. Della Porta (1588)

 

The Ara Pacis, an altar erected in Rome by the emperor Augustus in 9 B.C.E., includes one of the earliest documented depictions of an orchid (inset) in Western art. Credit: Bernd Haynold

 

Orchidaceae is a diverse and widespread family of flowering plants, with blooms that are often colourful and often fragrant. The type genus (i.e. the genus after which the family is named) is Orchis. The genus name comes from the Ancient Greek ὄρχις (órkhis), literally meaning “testicle”, because of the shape of the twin tubers in some species of Orchis. The term “orchid” was introduced in 1845 by John Lindley in School Botany, as a shortened form of Orchidaceae. All orchids are perennial herbs that lack any permanent woody structure.

The depictions of Italian orchids showed up much earlier than expected. Previously they were spotted in paintings in the 1400s, but Caneva’s team discovered them as early as 46 B.C.E, when Julius Caesar erected the Temple of Venus Genetrix in Rome. There are at least three orchids appearing in dozens of other plants on the Ara Pacis. Artists chose the flowers to emphasize a theme of civic rebirth, fertility and prosperity following a long period of conflict.

As Christianity began to influence art in the 3rd and 4th centuries, orchids and other plants began to fade from public art. This was probably due to an effort to eliminate pagan symbols and those related to sexuality. With the arrival of the Renaissance, orchids arrive back in art, but now mostly as a symbol of beauty and elegance.

 

Photograph by Robert Mapplethorpe, circa 1986

 

Orchid, Patti Smith, 1998

Broken Flag

“Nodding though, the lamp’s lit low, nod for passers
underground
To and fro, she’s darning and the land is weeping red
and pale
Weeping yarn from Algiers,
weeping yarn from Algiers

Weaving though, the eyes are pale, what will rend,
will also mend
The sifting cloth is binding and the dream she weaves
will never end
For we’re marching toward Algiers,
for we’re marching toward Algiers

Lullaby though, baby’s gone,
lullaby a broken song
Oh, the cradle was our call,
when it rocked we carried on
And we marched on toward Algiers,
for we’re marching for Algiers
We’re still marching for Algiers,
marching, marching for Algiers

Not to hail a barren sky,
sifting cloth is weeping red
The mourning veil is waving high a field of stars
and tears we’ve shed
In the sky a broken flag, children wave and raise their arms
We’ll be gone but they’ll go on and on and on and on and on”

Patti Smith

Waves
1979

 

Photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe

 

 Photograph by Steven Sebring

Shots in the Dark

By Patty Smith
from Details, November 1992

 

Self-Portrait, Robert Mapplethorpe, 1985

 

“When Robert and I were young, scarcely twenty, we’d sometimes go to Coney Island, have a Nathan’s hot dog, sit on the long pier, and dream about the future. Robert wanted to be a rich and famous artist. (He did it.) I wanted to do something great. (I’m still working on it.) We’d cast our wishes like the shoeless kids and old men who cast out their fishing lines. We’d sit there until dawn, then head back into Brooklyn. We were never afraid. New York was tough but kind. We were always all right. Maybe just a little hungry.

It was the summer of 1967. I had left the security of family, cornfields, and billowing New Jersey skies to seek my fortune in New York. I met Robert, a smiling, barefoot kid as misfit as myself. That fall, we got a place on Hall Street in Brooklyn, across from Pratt Institute, where he was a student. The streets were run by painters and poets. Everybody had a vision. Everybody was broke. Nobody had a TV.

Ours was a bleak little apartment that he brightened with Indian cloths, religious objects, and his own work. I tacked pictures of Rimbaud over my writing desk, played my Juliet Gréco records, and read Illuminations. Robert had a Timothy Leary book–one of the few books he actually read. (He often fell asleep in foreign movies. It was the subtitles, he said.) He was always working on a drawing, an installation, or a new piece of sculpture. He’d work twelve hours straight, listening to the same Vanilla Fudge album over and over. His work was asymmetric, psychedelic, and he was always scavenging for materials. I had to hide my best stuff, for many a wolf skin, brocade, or crucifix was sacrificed on the altar of art.

At twenty, we were still learning about ourselves, trying to make sense of what was going down. Assassinations, Vietnam, universal love, where our next meal was coming from. New York was going though its own changes–the Beat residue of the early ’60s was giving way to the divine disorder of 1968. All this was new to me–beaded curtains and LSD were not big sellers in South Jersey.

Robert and I rarely fought. We did bicker, though, like siblings, over everything. Trivial things. Who would do the laundry. Who would get the last sheet of drawing paper. Who was the better dancer. (He refused to acknowledge the superiority of my South Jersey over his own Long Island style.) What to eat. All he ever wanted was spaghetti and chocolate egg creams.

Our main preoccupations were art and magic. Magic was an intuitive thing you either had or you didn’t, and Robert was sure he had it. It was a gift from God, and he pinned his faith upon it. I always admired his confidence. It wasn’t arrogance, it was just there, unshakable. And he was generous with it–if he believed in what you were doing, he somehow infected you with it. His major source of anxiety was money, because executing his ideas required it and he loathed employment.

We were not the hippest people. That was not the thing. The thing was to develop a vision that would be worthy of remembrance, or even a bit of glory.

Sometimes we’d pass the night by sitting on the floor, looking at books. Some my mother gave me: The Fabulous Life of Diego Rivera, Brancusi, The Sacred Art of Tibet. And his own big coffee-table books on erotic art, Tantric art, and Surrealism. I’d plait my hair like Frida Kahlo, he’d stretch out in an old black turtleneck and dungarees, and we’d find refuge in the pages and emerge inspired, full of resolve.

Robert loved the large-format book. He wasn’t much of a reader, but he’d study the plates–the work of Michelangelo, Blake, Duchamp–and extend what he saw in works of his own. He dreamed of having such a book someday, devoted to his own particular vision that was, in the late ’60s, still forming.

This was on my mind recently when I opened the package containing the unbound sheets of his forthcoming book, Mapplethorpe. A large, exquisite book, admittedly not for every coffee table, but coffee-table size, just as he wanted. It forms a visual diary of his life, opening not with his name, nor a text, but with an image of a proud, frayed American flag. The stars block, and are therefore illuminated by, the sun. Toward the end of the book is one of his last self-portraits, in which he is aged considerably from physical suffering, stubborn, stoic, and a bit frayed, like the proud and weathered flag.

Robert took his first pictures in 1970. We had parted as a couple, but we stayed together as friends. We tackled Manhattan: The Chelsea Hotel. Max’s Kansas City. The Factory. The ’70s. Robert loved Manhattan, its perpetual twilight. He felt alive there, free. He loved socializing-even though he was shy–and he loved Andy Warhol, who was also shy and loved to socialize.

Like many exploring their sexual identity at that time, he cased the emerging frontier. Christopher Street. Forty-second Street. The leather, bars. The baths. He shifted identities, not out of crisis, but out of delight. One month, the sailor; the next, the hustler. “How do you like this new image!” he’d ask, pleased with himself in a black net T-shirt, tight pants, and a piece of red silk tied around his throat. In that same black net tee he hung out on Fifty- third Street, where he observed the hustlers, photographed the hustlers, and perhaps hustled himself. He wore the T-shirt executing art. And when he finally took it off, he stretched and mounted it on a frame and exposed it as art itself.

He was using at this time an old Polaroid. A pack of film was costly and might take the place of a meal, so each shot was important. Robert never took snapshots. He always knew beforehand the image he was after. He followed me around with that Polaroid constantly, issuing simple commands. “Can you stand in that shaft of light?” “Slowly face the wall.” Each shot taken with a studied economy, an economy he employed throughout his working life. Even later, as his work developed, he never used a motor drive, never shot roll after roll. His process was not a passionate one. His work was the result of a contemplative, deliberate act. He never drew lines; he crossed them, without apology, to create something present, new. A contact sheet would reveal just twelve images. They were all alike, except for the one he had marked, the perfect one. “The one with the magic,” he’d say.

I admit I hoped his photography was a passing phase. Somehow, being shot with a cheap Polaroid didn’t correspond to my notion of the role of the French artist’s model. But he took it seriously. He liked the speed, the immediacy. He was convinced that the common Polaroid print, in his hands, was a viable work of art.

He drew his subjects from life’s walk, and his work reflected change–both personal and social. Many of his models were biker boys, call boys, men of the street. His form was classic, stylized–“I’m not after beauty,” he would say, “I’m after perfection, and they’re not always the same.”

In the early ’70s he began to use the large-format camera, and he committed himself to photography, championing its elevation and exploration. Portraits, still lifes, early flowers, the S&M suite. At first I found the S&M photographs, which were difficult by most standards, frightening. I once asked him what it was like being there, observing, immortalizing the private rituals of these people. He said it was “somewhat scary. But they know what they’re doing. And so do I. It’s all about trust.” He used these photographs, which caused such a stir years later, to tease me relentlessly. He knew I was squeamish about them, and he’d slip prints into my books. So on a rainy Sunday, I’d open a beautiful copy of Peter Pan or Arabia Deserta and be assaulted by an image of a bloodied member in a vice grip. “Robert!” I’d yell. And I could hear him, through the wall that separated our studios, giggling.

I think the furor his work caused after his death would have amused him. But the attention paid to just the sexual aspect would have surely dismayed him. He was not intentionally political. He was not an activist. He shot what he saw–just as Genet wrote what he experienced–with grace. All his work–from the translucent skin of a lily to the arched torso of a black male–represented him, his vision of the world. Just as Pollock hated being called an Abstract Expressionist and Manet deplored the title Impressionist, Robert never wanted to be pegged. Not even as a photographer. The true artist desires, and deserves, to be remembered only as an Artist.

Shortly before he died, I sat with Robert in his studio. He still worked, despite terrible bouts of coughing, vomiting, and excruciating pain. With the aid of his youngest brother, the photographer Edward Maxey, he was able to produce some final, perfect images. We sat amongst large, exquisite prints. A cluster of deeply ripe grapes. A single rose. And a marble portrait of Hermes. The skin of the white statue burned and seemed to emit its own light against a field of black. It was as if, through Robert’s eye, it had glimpsed life.

“I think I’ve done everything I can with the photograph,” he said. “I think I’ll go back to sculpture.”

He had on that day the anxious, fervent gaze he often wore when he worked. I remember that same look as he photographed me in Burbank, California, in full sun before a drying palm. It was 1987, I was six months pregnant and feeling the strain. Robert was not well. His hand trembled and, as he worked, he dropped and broke his light meter. But we took the picture anyway, barely saying a word. He checked the image and drew the camera closer. “Can you raise your head just a little!” It was much like the first pictures. High concentration. Simple and direct. Within that modest photograph is all our experience, compassion,, and even a mutual sense of irony. He was carrying death. I was carrying life. My hair is braided and the sun is in my eyes. And so is an image of Robert, alive.”

The Origin of the World

L’Origine du monde, Gustave Courbet, 1866

 

At the time Courbet was working on the painting his favorite model was a young woman, Joanna Hiffernan, also known as Jo. Her lover at the time was the American painter James Whistler, a friend of Courbet.

During the 19th century, the display of the nude body underwent a revolution whose main activists were Courbet and Édouard Manet. Courbet rejected academic painting and its smooth, idealized nudes, but he also directly recriminated the hypocritical social conventions of the Second Empire, where eroticism and even pornography were acceptable in mythological or oneiric paintings.

 

The putative upper section of L’Origine du monde

 

La belle Irlandaise (Portrait of Jo), Gustave Courbet, 1866

 

Courbet did another painting whose model was Joanna Hiffernan. During his whole career, Courbet did four portraits of Hiffernan. She was probably the model for L’Origine du monde, which might explain Courbet’s and Whistler’s brutal separation a short while later. Whistler then returned to London. In spite of Hiffernan’s red hair contrasting with the darker pubic hair of L’Origine du monde, the hypothesis that Hiffernan was the model for it prevails.

 

Photograph by Robert Mapplethorpe, circa 1984-86

 

L’Origine de la Guerre, Orlan, 1989

 

The image is also referenced as inspiring Catherine Breillat’s filming of the female genitalia in her 2004 film Anatomie de l’enfer (Anatomy of Hell)

A Season in Hell

A Season in Hell by Arthur Rimbaud, translation and introduction by Paul Schmidt, with photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe

Text in French and English

Published by Little, Brown and Company in 1986

 

Une Saison en Enfer (A Season in Hell) is an extended poem in prose written and published in 1873 by French writer Arthur Rimbaud (1854–1891). It is the only work that was published by Rimbaud himself. The book had a considerable influence on later artists and poets, including the Surrealists.

Rimbaud began writing the poem in April 1873 during a visit to his family’s farm in Roche, near Charleville on the French-Belgian border. According to Bertrand Mathieu, Rimbaud wrote the work in a dilapidated barn. In the following weeks, Rimbaud travelled with poet Paul Verlaine through Belgium and to London again. They had begun a complicated homosexual relationship in spring 1872, and they quarreled frequently. Verlaine had bouts of suicidial behavior and drunkenness. When Rimbaud announced he planned to leave while they stayed in Brussels in July 1873, Verlaine fired three shots from his revolver, wounding Rimbaud once, and after subsequent threats of violence Verlaine was arrested and incarcerated to two years hard labour. After their parting, he returned home to complete the work and published A Season in Hell. However, when his reputation was marred because of his actions with Verlaine, he received negative reviews and was snubbed by Parisian art and literary circles. In anger, Rimbaud burned his manuscripts and likely never wrote poetry again.

According to some sources, Rimbaud’s first stay in London in September 1872 converted him from an imbiber of absinthe to a smoker of opium, and drinker of gin and beer. According to biographer, Graham Robb, this began “as an attempt to explain why some of his [Rimbaud’s] poems are so hard to understand, especially when sober”.

 

Portfolio for A Season in Hell, Robert Mapplethorpe, 1986

The Drunken Boat

Patti Smith (Boat to Fire Island), Robert Mapplethorpe, circa 1971-74

 

LE BATEAU IVRE

Comme je descendais des Fleuves impassibles,
Je ne me sentis plus guidé par les haleurs :
Des Peaux-Rouges criards les avaient pris pour cibles,
Les ayant cloués nus aux poteaux de couleurs.

J’étais insoucieux de tous les équipages,
Porteur de blés flamands ou de cotons anglais.
Quand avec mes haleurs ont fini ces tapages,
Les Fleuves m’ont laissé descendre où je voulais.

Dans les clapotements furieux des marées,
Moi, l’autre hiver, plus sourd que les cerveaux d’enfants,
Je courus ! Et les Péninsules démarrées
N’ont pas subi tohu-bohus plus triomphants.

La tempête a béni mes éveils maritimes.
Plus léger qu’un bouchon j’ai dansé sur les flots
Qu’on appelle rouleurs éternels de victimes,
Dix nuits, sans regretter l’oeil niais des falots!

Plus douce qu’aux enfants la chair des pommes sûres,
L’eau verte pénétra ma coque de sapin
Et des taches de vins bleus et des vomissures
Me lava, dispersant gouvernail et grappin.

Et dès lors, je me suis baigné dans le Poème
De la Mer, infusé d’astres, et lactescent,
Dévorant les azurs verts ; où, flottaison blême
Et ravie, un noyé pensif parfois descend;

Où, teignant tout à coup les bleuités, délires
Et rhythmes lents sous les rutilements du jour,
Plus fortes que l’alcool, plus vastes que nos lyres,
Fermentent les rousseurs amères de l’amour!

Je sais les cieux crevant en éclairs, et les trombes
Et les ressacs et les courants : je sais le soir,
L’Aube exaltée ainsi qu’un peuple de colombes,
Et j’ai vu quelquefois ce que l’homme a cru voir!

J’ai vu le soleil bas, taché d’horreurs mystiques,
Illuminant de longs figements violets,
Pareils à des acteurs de drames très antiques
Les flots roulant au loin leurs frissons de volets!

J’ai rêvé la nuit verte aux neiges éblouies,
Baiser montant aux yeux des mers avec lenteurs,
La circulation des sèves inouïes,
Et l’éveil jaune et bleu des phosphores chanteurs!

J’ai suivi, des mois pleins, pareille aux vacheries
Hystériques, la houle à l’assaut des récifs,
Sans songer que les pieds lumineux des Maries
Pussent forcer le mufle aux Océans poussifs!

J’ai heurté, savez-vous, d’incroyables Florides
Mêlant aux fleurs des yeux de panthères à peaux
D’hommes ! Des arcs-en-ciel tendus comme des brides
Sous l’horizon des mers, à de glauques troupeaux!

J’ai vu fermenter les marais énormes, nasses
Où pourrit dans les joncs tout un Léviathan!
Des écroulements d’eaux au milieu des bonaces,
Et les lointains vers les gouffres cataractant!

Glaciers, soleils d’argent, flots nacreux, cieux de braises!
Échouages hideux au fond des golfes bruns
Où les serpents géants dévorés des punaises
Choient, des arbres tordus, avec de noirs parfums!

J’aurais voulu montrer aux enfants ces dorades
Du flot bleu, ces poissons d’or, ces poissons chantants.
– Des écumes de fleurs ont bercé mes dérades
Et d’ineffables vents m’ont ailé par instants.

Parfois, martyr lassé des pôles et des zones,
La mer dont le sanglot faisait mon roulis doux
Montait vers moi ses fleurs d’ombre aux ventouses jaunes
Et je restais, ainsi qu’une femme à genoux…

Presque île, ballottant sur mes bords les querelles
Et les fientes d’oiseaux clabaudeurs aux yeux blonds.
Et je voguais, lorsqu’à travers mes liens frêles
Des noyés descendaient dormir, à reculons!

Or moi, bateau perdu sous les cheveux des anses,
Jeté par l’ouragan dans l’éther sans oiseau,
Moi dont les Monitors et les voiliers des Hanses
N’auraient pas repêché la carcasse ivre d’eau;

Libre, fumant, monté de brumes violettes,
Moi qui trouais le ciel rougeoyant comme un mur
Qui porte, confiture exquise aux bons poètes,
Des lichens de soleil et des morves d’azur;

Qui courais, taché de lunules électriques,
Planche folle, escorté des hippocampes noirs,
Quand les juillets faisaient crouler à coups de triques
Les cieux ultramarins aux ardents entonnoirs;

Moi qui tremblais, sentant geindre à cinquante lieues
Le rut des Béhémots et les Maelstroms épais,
Fileur éternel des immobilités bleues,
Je regrette l’Europe aux anciens parapets!

J’ai vu des archipels sidéraux ! et des îles
Dont les cieux délirants sont ouverts au vogueur :
– Est-ce en ces nuits sans fonds que tu dors et t’exiles,
Million d’oiseaux d’or, ô future Vigueur?

Mais, vrai, j’ai trop pleuré ! Les Aubes sont navrantes.
Toute lune est atroce et tout soleil amer :
L’âcre amour m’a gonflé de torpeurs enivrantes.
Ô que ma quille éclate ! Ô que j’aille à la mer!

Si je désire une eau d’Europe, c’est la flache
Noire et froide où vers le crépuscule embaumé
Un enfant accroupi plein de tristesse, lâche
Un bateau frêle comme un papillon de mai.

Je ne puis plus, baigné de vos langueurs, ô lames,
Enlever leur sillage aux porteurs de cotons,
Ni traverser l’orgueil des drapeaux et des flammes,
Ni nager sous les yeux horribles des pontons.

Arthur Rimbaud

1871

 

__________________________________

 

“As I was going down impassive Rivers,
I no longer felt myself guided by haulers:
Yelping redskins had taken them as targets
And had nailed them naked to colored stakes.

I was indifferent to all crews,
The bearer of Flemish wheat or English cottons
When with my haulers this uproar stopped
The Rivers let me go where I wanted.

Into the furious lashing of the tides
More heedless than children’s brains the other winter
I ran! And loosened Peninsulas
Have not undergone a more triumphant hubbub

The storm blessed my sea vigils
Lighter than a cork I danced on the waves
That are called eternal rollers of victims,
Ten nights, without missing the stupid eye of the lighthouses!

Sweeter than the flesh of hard apples is to children
The green water penetrated my hull of fir
And washed me of spots of blue wine
And vomit, scattering rudder and grappling-hook

And from then on I bathed in the Poem
Of the Sea, infused with stars and lactescent,
Devouring the azure verses; where, like a pale elated
Piece of flotsam, a pensive drowned figure sometimes sinks;

Where, suddenly dyeing the blueness, delirium
And slow rhythms under the streaking of daylight,
Stronger than alcohol, vaster than our lyres,
The bitter redness of love ferments!

I know the skies bursting with lightning, and the waterspouts
And the surf and the currents; I know the evening,
And dawn as exalted as a flock of doves
And at times I have seen what man thought he saw!

I have seen the low sun spotted with mystic horrors,
Lighting up, with long violet clots,
Resembling actors of very ancient dramas,
The waves rolling far off their quivering of shutters!

I have dreamed of the green night with dazzled snows
A kiss slowly rising to the eyes of the sea,
The circulation of unknown saps,
And the yellow and blue awakening of singing phosphorous!

I followed during pregnant months the swell,
Like hysterical cows, in its assault on the reefs,
Without dreaming that the luminous feet of the Marys
Could constrain the snout of the wheezing Oceans!

I struck against, you know, unbelievable Floridas
Mingling with flowers panthers’ eyes and human
Skin! Rainbows stretched like bridal reins
Under the horizon of the seas to greenish herds!

I have seen enormous swamps ferment, fish-traps
Where a whole Leviathan rots in the rushes!
Avalanches of water in the midst of a calm,
And the distances cataracting toward the abyss!

Glaciers, suns of silver, nacreous waves, skies of embers!
Hideous strands at the end of brown gulfs
Where giant serpents devoured by bedbugs
Fall down from gnarled trees with black scent!

I should have liked to show children those sunfish
Of the blue wave, the fish of gold, the singing fish.
—Foam of flowers rocked my drifting
And ineffable winds winged me at times.

At times a martyr weary of poles and zones,
The sea, whose sob created my gentle roll,
Brought up to me her dark flowers with yellow suckers
And I remained, like a woman on her knees…

Resembling an island tossing on my sides the quarrels
And droppings of noisy birds with yellow eyes
And I sailed on, when through my fragile ropes
Drowned men sank backward to sleep!

Now I, a boat lost in the foliage of caves,
Thrown by the storm into the birdless air
I whose water-drunk carcass would not have been rescued
By the Monitors and the Hanseatic sailboats;

Free, smoking, topped with violet fog,
I who pierced the reddening sky like a wall,
Bearing, delicious jam for good poets
Lichens of sunlight and mucus of azure,

Who ran, spotted with small electric moons,
A wild plank, escorted by black seahorses,
When Julys beat down with blows of cudgels
The ultramarine skies with burning funnels;

I, who trembled, hearing at fifty leagues off
The moaning of the Behemoths in heat and the thick Maelstroms,
Eternal spinner of the blue immobility
I miss Europe with its ancient parapets!

I have seen sidereal archipelagos! and islands
Whose delirious skies are open to the sea-wanderer:
—Is it in these bottomless nights that you sleep and exile yourself,
Million golden birds, o future Vigor? –

But, in truth, I have wept too much! Dawns are heartbreaking.
Every moon is atrocious and every sun bitter.
Acrid love has swollen me with intoxicating torpor
O let my keel burst! O let me go into the sea!

If I want a water of Europe, it is the black
Cold puddle where in the sweet-smelling twilight
A squatting child full of sadness releases
A boat as fragile as a May butterfly.

No longer can I, bathed in your languor, o waves,
Follow in the wake of the cotton boats,
Nor cross through the pride of flags and flames,
Nor swim under the terrible eyes of prison ships.”

 

A reissue of Rimbaud’s highly influential work, with a new preface by Patti Smith and the original 1945 New Directions cover design by Alvin Lustig

 

In 2011 New Directions relaunched  the long-celebrated bi-lingual edition of Rimbaud’s A Season In Hell and The Drunken Boat — a personal poem of damnation as well as a plea to be released from “the examination of his own depths.”

Rimbaud originally distributed A Season In Hell to friends as a self-published booklet, and soon afterward, at the age of nineteen, quit poetry altogether. New Directions’s edition was among the first to be published in the U.S., and it quickly became a classic. Rimbaud’s famous poem The Drunken Boat was subsequently added to the first paperbook printing. Allen Ginsberg proclaimed Arthur Rimbaud as “the first punk” — a visionary mentor to the Beats for both his recklessness and his fiery poetry.

The Perfect Moment

Self-Portrait, Robert Mapplethorpe, 1980

 

James Franco photographed by Mariano Vivanco, 2012

 

Self-Portrait, Robert Mapplethorpe, 1983

 

James Franco, also by Mariano Vivanco, 2012

 

In 2012 it was announced that funding had been received by The Tribeca Film Institute for Ondi Timoner‘s Robert Mapplethorpe biopic. At that same time, it was also confirmed that James Franco would star as Robert Mapplethorpe.

While we hadn’t heard much on the film since then, some photos were released that showcase Franco channeling the famous photographer. Also, it’s been revealed that the film is under the working title The Perfect Moment, the same title as Mapplethorpe’s 1989 traveling exhibition.

 

The photos were done by GQ Germany and they feature Franco pulling some of Mapplethorpe’s iconic poses. The film was expected to get underway later 2012

Absorbing Images

“Robert absorbed every image he ever saw. The Baron de Meyer’s famous image of the flower became Robert’s flower. Robert also nicked something from de Meyer’s sequence of photographs showing Nijinsky in L’Après-midi d’un faune

Edward Lucie-Smith

(As quoted in Mapplethorpe: Assault with a Deadly Camera, by Jack Fritscher)

 

Photographs by Adolph de Meyer

Paths That Cross

Robert Mapplethorpe and Sam Wagstaff. Photo by Francesco Scavullo, 1974

Samuel Jones Wagstaff Jr. and Robert Mapplethorpe share the same birthday – November 4. But Sam Wagstaff was born 25 years earlier than Robert, in 1921

After seeing the exhibition The Painterly Photograph, 1890-1914 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1973 and meeting Robert Mapplethorpe in 1972, Wagstaff became convinced that photographs were the most unrecognized and, possibly, the most valuable works of art. He began selling his collection of paintings, using the proceeds to buy 19th-century American, British, and French photography. Then, influenced by Mapplethorpe, Wagstaff’s taste veered toward the daring, and he began to depart from established names in search of new talent. His collection was soon recognized as one of the finest private holdings in the United States.

 

PATHS THAT CROSS
Dedicated to the memory of Samuel J. Wagstaff.

Speak to me
Speak to me heart
I feel a needing
to bridge the clouds
Softly go
A way I wish to know
A way I wish to know

Oh you’ll ride
Surely dance
In a ring
Backwards and forwards
Those who seek
feel the glow
A glow we will all know
A glow we will all know

On that day
Filled with grace
And the heart’s communion
Steps we take
Steps we trace
Into the light of reunion

Paths that cross
will cross again
Paths that cross
will cross again

Speak to me
Speak to me shadow
I spin from the wheel
nothing at all
Save the need
the need to weave
A silk of souls
that whisper whisper
A silk of souls
that whispers to me

Speak to me heart
all things renew
hearts will mend
round the bend
Paths that cross
cross again
Paths that cross
will cross again

Rise up hold the reins
We’ll meet again I don’t know when
Hold tight bye bye
Paths that cross
will cross again
Paths that cross
Will cross again

Patti Smith

Dream of Life

1988

To listen to this song, please take a gander at The Genealogy of Style’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228?ref=hl

A Kind of Chelsea Heterosexual Bonding

 

At the Chelsea Hotel, Robert Mapplethorpe claimed (in his version), he met Patti Smith, who appeared in his open doorway looking for someone else, not Robert, whom she had never met. “I woke up,” Robert said, “and there was Patti. We recognized each other’s souls instantly. We had matching bodies. I had never met her, but I knew her.”

“Robert at first was too poor to live at the Chelsea Hotel, so he lived down the street, but he hung out in the Chelsea, cruising its corridors, picking up on the art-sex-and-drugs cachet of the address, trying to meet people who knew people.” Robert at the time was twenty years old and had been hustling Manhattan for four years. He was six years away from meeting art historian John McKendry, curator of photography at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, who bought Robert his first serious camera. Robert worked the Chelsea Hotel and the galleries by day the way, in the later, more successful, period in the late seventies, he worked clubs like Max’s Kansas City, The Saint, and the Mine Shaft by night. Those early days, he once told me, were hard and dark. Sometimes, he was able to afford the tab on a small room at the Chelsea Hotel on West Twenty-third Street. Sometimes, he retired to a dingy walk-up just down the street. In New York, one’s address is everything, and crashing the Chelsea, the notorious avant-garde enclave, gave Robert his first tangible sense of arrival.

 

 

The androgynous bodies took, according to Robert’s take, to a kind of Chelsea heterosexual bonding. They became a couple on the art-and-party circuit. They pooled their money to afford their nightly visits to Mickey Ruskin’s bistro at Park Avenue and Sixteenth Street, Max’s Kansas City, where sixties pop celebrated itself nightly. “I hated going there,” Robert said, “but I had to.”

 

 

At dawn, the young couple returned to the Chelsea. Robert supposedly had kicked a hole in the wall between his room and Patti’s. This instant suite was his first attempt at interior design. Robert needed Patti. He was alone. She was there. She nurtured him for several years. She was a writer and he was mad for the company of writers. She was a singer and he loved rock ‘n’ roll. The Chelsea Girls film had lasted three hours and fifteen minutes. Robert and Patti lasted longer. For a while, as a couple, they were chronologically correct, until they weren’t. Patti graduated to her own stardom, travels, and odalisques. One pop culture urban tale has Patti running off with playwright Sam Shepard, leaving Shepard’s writer/film actress wife, O-1an Jones (O-lan later became a theater legend, directing her experimental music and theater company, Overtone Industries). Another urban pop tale, told by porn star J. D. Slater, pairs Patti with the lead guitarist of MC-5, Fred Sonic Smith. Patti Smith herself can be the only one to tell the tales of her heart. Whatever her real private history, the true romance pop culture story is she never really left Robert, not for men, not for women, not for music, not for long, because she was more than his muse; she was his twin, his divine androgyne, and he was her photographer, the artist whose camera, with her, became positively Kirlian, capturing her spirit, her aura, her being.

His camera became their bond. “Patti is a genius.” Robert said that so often I began to understand that what he said about Patti he was projecting about himself as modestly as he could. His style was to reveal his personal self by indirection. (His professional self he revealed by edict.) Consequently, I never knew much about Patti, to whom I sometimes spoke on Robert’s phone calls from my home, because Robert used her as an emblem to talk about himself. When Edward Lucie-Smith met Robert and Patti, they were inmates at the Chelsea: spiritually, but not physically. “When I met him,” Edward said, “Robert was in one of his ‘broke’ phases, and the walk-up a few doors down the street was the place where he slept, if he ever did sleep, while he hung out at the Chelsea.” But Robert and Patti seemed avantly certifiable Chelsea Girls. Signs and omens were everywhere. Andy Warhol’s film was banned in Boston and Chicago. The “Chelsea Robert,” so enthralled by Warhol, was already on the trendy trajectory toward censorship.

 

Mapplethorpe: Assault with a Deadly Camera

Jack Fritscher

Pan is Dead

Self-portrait , Robert Mapplethorpe, 1985. In several of his self-portraits Robert referenced himself as faun, satyr, Pan

 
 

GODS of Hellas, gods of Hellas,
Can ye listen in your silence?
Can your mystic voices tell us
Where ye hide? In floating islands,
With a wind that evermore
Keeps you out of sight of shore?
Pan, Pan is dead.

In what revels are ye sunken
In old Æthiopia?
Have the Pygmies made you drunken,
Bathing in mandragora
Your divine pale lips that shiver
Like the lotus in the river?
Pan, Pan is dead.

Do ye sit there still in slumber,
In gigantic Alpine rows?
The black poppies out of number
Nodding, dripping from your brows
To the red lees of your wine,—
And so kept alive and fine?
Pan, Pan is dead.

Or lie crushed your stagnant corses
Where the silver spheres roll on,
Stung to life by centric forces
Thrown like rays out from the sun?
While the smoke of your old altars
Is the shroud that round you welters?
Great Pan is dead.

“Gods of Hellas, gods of Hellas,”
Said the old Hellenic tongue!
Said the hero-oaths, as well as
Poets’ songs the sweetest sung!
Have ye grown deaf in a day?
Can ye speak not yea or nay—
Since Pan is dead?

Do ye leave your rivers flowing
All alone, O Naiades,
While your drenchéd locks dry slow in
This cold feeble sun and breeze?—
Not a word the Naiads say,
Though the rivers run for aye.
For Pan is dead.

From the gloaming of the oak-wood,
O ye Dryads, could ye flee?
At the rushing thunderstroke would
No sob tremble through the tree?—
Not a word the Dryads say,
Though the forests wave for aye.
For Pan is dead.

Have ye left the mountain places,
Oreads wild, for other tryst?
Shall we see no sudden faces
Strike a glory through the mist?
Not a sound the silence thrills
Of the everlasting hills.
Pan, Pan is dead.

O twelve gods of Plato’s vision,
Crowned to starry wanderings,—
With your chariots in procession,
And your silver clash of wings!
Very pale ye seem to rise,
Ghosts of Grecian deities,—
Now Pan is dead!

Jove! that right hand is unloaded,
Whence the thunder did prevail,
While in idiocy of godhead
Thou art staring the stars pale!
And thine eagle, blind and old,
Roughs his feathers in the cold.
Pan, Pan is dead.

Where, O Juno, is the glory
Of thy regal look and tread?
Will they lay, for evermore, thee,
On thy dim, straight, golden bed?
Will thy queendom all lie hid
Meekly under either lid?
Pan, Pan is dead.

Ha, Apollo! Floats his golden
Hair all mist-like where he stands,
While the Muses hang enfolding
Knee and foot with faint wild hands?
’Neath the clanging of thy bow,
Niobe looked lost as thou!
Pan, Pan is dead.

Shall the casque with its brown iron
Pallas’ broad blue eyes eclipse,
And no hero take inspiring
From the God-Greek of her lips?
’Neath her olive dost thou sit,
Mars the mighty, cursing it?
Pan, Pan is dead.

Bacchus, Bacchus! on the panther
He swoons,—bound with his own vines!
And his Mænads slowly saunter,
Head aside, among the pines,
While they murmur dreamingly,—
“Evohe—ah—evohe—!
Ah, Pan is dead.

Neptune lies beside the trident,
Dull and senseless as a stone;
And old Pluto deaf and silent
Is cast out into the sun:
Ceres smileth stern thereat,—
“We all now are desolate—
Now Pan is dead.”

Aphrodite! dead and driven
As thy native foam, thou art;
With the cestus long done heaving
On the white calm of thy heart!
Ai Adonis! At that shriek,
Not a tear runs down her cheek—
Pan, Pan is dead.

And the Loves, we used to know from
One another,—huddled lie,
Frore as taken in a snow-storm,
Close beside her tenderly,—
As if each had weakly tried
Once to kiss her as he died.
Pan, Pan is dead.

What, and Hermes? Time enthralleth
All thy cunning, Hermes, thus,—
And the ivy blindly crawleth
Round thy brave caduceus?
Hast thou no new message for us,
Full of thunder and Jove-glories?
Nay! Pan is dead.

Crownéd Cybele’s great turret
Rocks and crumbles on her head:
Roar the lions of her chariot
Toward the wilderness, unfed;
Scornful children are not mute,—
“Mother, mother, walk afoot—
Since Pan is dead.”

In the fiery-hearted centre
Of the solemn universe,
Ancient Vesta,—who could enter
To consume thee with this curse?
Drop thy gray chin on thy knee,
O thou palsied Mystery!
For Pan is dead.

Gods! we vainly do adjure you,—
Ye return nor voice nor sign!
Not a votary could secure you
Even a grave for your Divine!
Not a grave, to show thereby,
Here these gray old gods do lie.
Pan, Pan is dead.

Even that Greece who took your wages,
Calls the obolus outworn;
And the hoarse deep-throated ages
Laugh your godships unto scorn—
And the poets do disclaim you,
Or grow colder if they name you—
And Pan is dead.

Gods bereavéd, gods belated,
With your purples rent asunder!
Gods discrowned and desecrated,
Disinherited of thunder!
Now, the goats may climb and crop
The soft grass on Ida’s top—
Now, Pan is dead.

Calm, of old, the bark went onward,
When a cry more loud than wind,
Rose up, deepened, and swept sunward,
From the piléd Dark behind; 165
And the sun shrank and grew pale,
Breathed against by the great wail,—
“Pan, Pan is dead.”

And the rowers from the benches
Fell,—each shuddering on his face,—
While departing influences
Struck a cold back through the place;
And the shadow of the ship
Reeled along the passive deep—
“Pan, Pan is dead.”

And that dismal cry rose slowly,
And sank slowly through the air,
Full of spirit’s melancholy
And eternity’s despair!
And they heard the words it said,—
“Pan is dead,—Great Pan is dead,—
Pan, Pan is dead.”

’T was the hour when One in Sion
Hung for love’s sake on a cross,—
When his brow was chill with dying,
And his soul was faint with loss;
When his priestly blood dropped downward,
And his kingly eyes looked throneward,—
Then, Pan was dead.

By the love he stood alone in,
His sole Godhead stood complete;
And the false gods fell down moaning,
Each from off his golden seat,—
All the false gods with a cry
Rendered up their deity,—
Pan, Pan was dead.

Wailing wide across the islands,
They rent, vest-like, their divine!
And a darkness and a silence
Quenched the light of every shrine;
And Dodona’s oak swang lonely
Henceforth, to the tempest only.
Pan, Pan was dead.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Introductory to Greece

 

Excited by Friedrich Schiller’s Götter Griechenlands, and partly founded on a well-known tradition mentioned in a treatise of Plutarch (De Oraculorum Defectu), according to which, at the hour of the Saviour’s agony, a cry of “Great Pan is dead!” swept across the waves in the hearing of certain mariners, and the oracles ceased.—Mrs. Browning’s Poems.

According to the Greek historian Plutarch The Obsolescence of Oracles, Pan is the only Greek god (other than Asclepius) who actually dies. During the reign of Tiberius (A.D. 14–37), the news of Pan’s death came to one Thamus, a sailor on his way to Italy by way of the island of Paxi. A divine voice hailed him across the salt water, “Thamus, are you there? When you reach Palodes, take care to proclaim that the great god Pan is dead.” Which Thamus did, and the news was greeted from shore with groans and laments.