Like the documentary, Patti Smith: Dream of Life, which was filmed over a period of 11 years by fashion photographer Steven Sebring and aired last week on the PBS series, P.O.V., Objects of Life, the exhibit that opened last night at New York's Robert Miller Gallery, is a collaborative effort, featuring some works by Smith, some by Sebring, and some they made together.
And, like that film, the exhibit offers an impressionistic portrait of a poet/painter/musician who first came into the public eye in 1975 with the release of her seminal album, Horses, and who has gone on to become one of America's best known, and most respected, artists; one whose fervent cult following is due in equal measure to her art and to the fact that she has not, after all these years, been tempted to compromise said art in the name of commerce. (The fact that she rocks the most offhandedly cool signature look ever doesn't hurt, either.)
No wonder the place looked like an art and fashion crowd Who's Who, with Calvin Klein, Michael Stipe, Zac Posen, Chiara Clemente, Waris Ahluwalia, Terry Richardson, Jessica Lange, Sam Shepard, Rosson Crow, Nicole Miller, Ryan McGinley, John Bartlett, Mary Ellen Mark, Jonas Mekas, Albert Maysles, Johan Lindberg and seventies It girl, Edwige Belmore, all on hand to pay their respects.
A collection of photographs, paintings, collages, video and, yes, objects, Dream of Life viewers will recognize the dress Smith wore as a child (about which she waxed eloquent in the film), her Land 250 Polaroid camera and Corona typewriter, her painting Strange Messenger (with an accompanying video depicting its creation), and the Medieval helmet worn by her then-teenaged son, Jackson, who's now all grown up and married to White Stripes drummer, Meg White.
The exhibit also includes a tambourine made by her life-long friend Robert Mapplethorpe, who is the subject of Smith's soon-to-be-released book, Just Kids, which documents the relationship that began when they were 20-year-olds living in the Chelsea Hotel and continued until Mapplethorpe's death in 1989.
As with everything Smith does, Objects of Life is an evocative and highly personal undertaking, one that invites the viewer inside the creative process and offers hope that it is, indeed, possible to live a creatively fulfilling life without having to sell out one's dreams to the highest bidder.
Patti Smith and Steven Sebring: Objects of Life will be shown at the Robert Miller Gallery from January 6 - February 6, 2010.
Photos © The Fashion Informer/Lauren David Peden