Last night I finished reading Patti Smith’s recent memoir of her friendship with Robert Maplethorpe in the late 1960s, early 1970s, titled Just Kids.
Perhaps it is nostalgia what with looking at photographs of that era and remembering friends who died. But there was a time when we were less obsessed with why we were transsexual and spent more personal conversations about art and artists.
There is a retrospective of the later works of Andy Warhol showing at the Fort Worth Modern through May. Tina and I are going tomorrow as our Valentine’s day celebration.
One of the movies I saw in 1967 that really influenced me was Chelsea Girls. That year the Velvet Underground’s first album provided a darker counterpoint to Sgt. Pepper. I was working at a shit job in a piss factory and like Patti Smith, I too had something inside of me called desire.
I was political and part of a movement that helped end the war in Vietnam and we were all “just kids”.
When I got to San Francisco and started the process of changing sex I was helped by an office that offered support for those changing sex. It was started by people who had their “Stonewall” three years before New York City’s. And they too were just kids.
I was best friends with a sister named Leslie. We went to old movies together and dug the crowd that hung out at Andy Warhol’s Factory, perhaps because he actually used queens in films directed by Paul Morrissey. Candy Darling tragically dying young of cancer.
We spoke of the creating our lives as art projects, “I am an artist and my life is my art.” Mostly we were escaping, running from as much as running towards.
Rock and roll with words that mattered from Dylan to Patti Smith, whose opening lines to her first recording “Hey Joe”, the A-side of “Piss Factory” were, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.”
We lost so many people along the way. Too many to drugs and way too many to AIDS. Andy Warhol died in 1987, over 20 years ago. Robert Maplethorpe died about the same time.
And somewhere along the line we stopped caring so much about art as something that really matters and be came obsessed with why we are this way.
As though the existential answer of, “I am this way because this is the way I am” is insufficient response to bigotry and psychiatric abuse.