Yesterday’s paper brought the wonderful announcement that Patti Smith has won the National Book Award in the non-fiction category for her beautifully poetic memoir Just Kids. For those of you who haven’t yet read the book, I highly recommend it. At its heart, the book presents a frank and deeply moving account of Smith’s relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe—from their first accidental yet fated meeting in 1967 until his death in 1989. But it’s much more than a story of love and friendship. It also provides the reader with an intimate glimpse into the creative evolution of two major American artists whose work continues to challenge and inspire.
In 2008, Patti Smith presented a very special performance in Washington, D.C. to benefit the Archives of American Art. She read from a series of artists’ love letters in our collection interspersed with some songs. Like always, she filled the room with joy and gave new life to the words of these artists. We’ve made available a sound clip from that evening of Patti reading a letter from Joan Mitchell to Michael Goldberg.
John W. Smith
Director, Archives of American Art