This past weekend, Patti Smith’s Camera Solo photography exhibit opened at the Detroit Institute of Arts. In conjunction with that, she played a show at the Detroit Film Theater, which sold out quickly. Everyone was mad about that, so, because Patti Smith is wonderful, she agreed to give a free reading at the DIA the following day.
I went with my friends Alie, Chloe, and Lura. Chloe and Lura had been lucky enough to attend the concert the night before, as well as the private reception that followed. The Hour took a really cute photo of them, which I love:
Anyway, the reading was held in the Rivera Court, so named because it’s home to Diego Rivera’s fresco murals. It has long been my favorite room at the DIA, so I was beyond stoked to learn that that’s where Patti Smith’s reading would take place.
She read from her collection of poetry, Auguries of Innocence, as well as from her memoir, Just Kids. She also brought along a guitar, and did a couple of songs, one of which she messed up multiple times. 🙂 She was gracious and funny, honest and human. “Effortlessly cool” is how Alie put it. We all had the opportunity to meet her afterward, too, which was awesome. I had brought along my copy of Just Kids for her to sign, but accidentally left it in Alie’s car. This gave me an excuse to buy another book of hers, and since I’d already read Auguries of Innocence, I chose the booklet that went along with her Camera Solo exhibit.
I don’t know a whole lot about visual art, but the one thing I really like about Patti Smith’s photographs is how intimate they are. She took many pictures of things belonging to famous people: Robert Mapplethorpe’s slippers, Arthur Rimbaud’s utensils, Virginia Woolf’s bed.
In an interview printed within the pages of this booklet, Patti says,
“I have never thought of myself as a celebrity. I am a worker. In the late 1970s I was proud to be a rock and roll star, but I also took my mission seriously. Rock and roll is the art of the people, a revolutionary form of expression that is accessible to everyone. It is the great equalizer.”
Illustrating that very idea, she closed her reading with a spoken word version of her song “People Have the Power.” The video for that song was filmed, in part, in the Rivera Court, which made the performance both appropriate and inspiring.