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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Stimulus for Creativity—Patti Smith's "Just Kids"

Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe

It's so rare that a book like this comes along. Patti Smith takes us back to the late 60s and early 70s, when she was part of that rarified group of hipsters living and creating art and music (punk rock) in New York City, with Robert Mapplethorpe, her devoted boyfriend, always at her side.

What's a book like this got to do with a mala maker? Hmmm...before I was a Dharma student, I, like so many others, was sort of a punk rocker. When I met my bemused teacher in 1985, my dyed blonde hair stuck out because the only shampoo I had was a bar of soap. My torn, hand-altered, safety-pinned t-shirt spelled revolution. I think Rinpoche (my teacher's honorific name) had a field day with me. Slowly, like most twenty year olds, I settled down—Dharma practice guiding me away from experimentation of the external kind and into the wonders of internal exploration. The mind is an incredible place, and with Rinpoche's guidance, I've been able to learn and grow so much. The marriage, mortgage, mini van and then Prius, and two kids followed inevitably. Life now is nothing like it was then!

But reading "Just Kids" brought those days back, days of being twenty-something at the beginning of the 80s, all the richness and craziness included.

What's amazing is Patti's voice. It's no wonder that she won the National Book Award. It's a story of two people supporting and loving each other, never accepting that either would do less than their best artwork and music possible. And that's why almost everyone should read this book. It shows the wide variety of artistic influences that made both Mapplethorpe and Smith great artists, whether you enjoy their subject matters or not. And Mapplethorpe's subject matter was indeed controversial and edgy, to say the least. Smith's gentle story of how she nurtured Mapplethorpe and he cared for her, guides this small book.

It's like that small, quiet voice of creativity that's been voiced over on the Etsy forums this week and in my own mind. People have been discussing 'How do you avoid burnout? How do you create anew? How not to get stuck?"

I put down the book yesterday refreshed. And after having put everything else aside to read it for a few days, I slowly picked up a pile of clearest, crispest quartz crystal beads and began to create malas again. Their real beauty and meaning was clear in my mind and I was reconnected with my purpose in making these lovely strands of prayer beads.

Because after all, to me and many people they aren't just beads, they're not just pretty—they mean something deep and holy.

And that's why I create: to combine beauty with the sacred and to share that.
I love a book that helps remind me of this.



Mare said...

Beautiful (just like you) I will have to read this book...

Anonymous said...

Robert Mapplethorpe was a heterosexual? Really? Your post brought a few things to mind: Patti Smith in her co-starring role in John McEnroe's autobiography - one suspects she has really turned him around; my visit to the Mapplethorpe show in Copenhagen way back when some Senators decided to pull NEA funds based on the show. My reaction to the, indeed, very graphic photos of nude males? Here's what I remember thinking: "you know, there's a reason the female form has been glorified in art over the centuries, and not the male..." Also I remember when my friend Diana was in college at Berkeley and she got Patti Smith's autograph on one of her albums - she was so pleased. I wonder if she still has the record - or anything to play it on. Keep writing, I love your blog, Jenna

Laura said...

Thanks Mare!

He lived with her before he had his sexual identity figured out. They had incredible love for each other through the years. The book is kind of a love story.

Thanks for reading!