The most beautiful work of all
Happy 75th birthday to Patti Smith, born on this day in 1946. This letter can be found in her memoir, Just Kids.
Punk pioneer Patti Smith and influential photographer Robert Mapplethorpe enjoyed a close relationship that began in 1967 when 20-year-old Smith moved to New York City. The pair hit it off immediately, and for the next seven years they lived together in Manhattan. In 1989, 22 years after first meeting and by which time they had long separated romantically but were still the closest of friends, Mapplethorpe passed away some time after being diagnosed with AIDS.
In the days preceding his untimely death, Smith wrote her soul mate the following letter—a letter he sadly didn’t get a chance to read. Beneath its text can be found footage of Smith reading her letter aloud, at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in October of 2011.
Often as I lie awake I wonder if you are also lying awake. Are you in pain or feeling alone? You drew me from the darkest period of my young life, sharing with me the sacred mystery of what it is to be an artist. I learned to see through you and never compose a line or draw a curve that does not come from the knowledge I derived in our precious time together. Your work, coming from a fluid source, can be traced to the naked song of your youth. You spoke then of holding hands with God. Remember, through everything, you have always held that hand, grip it hard, Robert, and don't let go.
The other afternoon, when you fell asleep on my shoulder, I drifted off, too. But before I did, it occurred to me looking around at all of your things and your work and going through years of work in my mind, that of all your work, you are still your most beautiful. The most beautiful work of all.