is an edited transcript of the interview conducted by Jody Denberg of KGSR
107.1 - Radio Austin on March 26th 2003. Published with kind permission.
Smith: (--) When I came to New York in 1967, I came, in order to work on my art.
I met Robert Mapplethorpe and we worked together for years. But it's more something
that I do more privately, because -- it's not something that I promote or anything,
but I have been working steadily and had a big exhibit at the Andy Warhol Museum,
a retrospective in September. And they took it. And Houston is the second museum
to take it. It will be going to Tokyo and Philadelphia and Europe. So I'm pretty
proud. But it's the work I've been doing since 1967.
Denberg: So the Andy Warhol Museum, that's in Pittsburgh?
Jody Denberg: The big opening
Pittsburgh. Andy, you left us another little smile right
there, I think.
Patti Smith: Well, I think it was interesting,
because, I mean, I did know Andy and he was actually always, y'know, supportive
of the work that I did. I mean, privately, you know, as a friend. And I don't
think he would have minded me having the exhibit there. And it was interesting.
These are several drawings that I did of Robert (Mapplethorpe) that I did when
Robert and I knew each other, when we were younger. And it was interesting, because
when I walked into the museum, the first thing I saw was a huge silkscreen that
Andy Warhol did of a portrait Robert. So I felt like we were all there.
Denberg: Full circle.
Patti Smith: Yeah.
Denberg: You say you've been doing this since the '60s, but never actively promoted
it. You didn't really hide it or anything.
No, well, I just do my work. You know, I sell the work sometimes. Many museums
have it; the Museum of Modern Art, some museums in Europe. I just love the work
that I do, but I'm not really involved in the art world. So I don't know how many
people are aware that I do that. But I do a lot of things, you know. I write my
books, I make my drawings and take my photographs. And it's just that it seems
like most people know me through rock and roll. And that's okay with me.
Denberg: Yeah. Hail, hail rock and roll. So drawings, photographs.
Smith: There are some large pieces. Actually, a large part of it is after September
11th, one of the images that was very strong for me was the remains of the South
Tower that looked a lot like the Tower of Babel. It was the skeletal remains.
And I got a photograph of it and then made silk screens of the South Tower and
made a large one about four feet. And I use a lot of handwriting and sort of recreated
the Tower, just with handwriting, taking all of the words from the Essene Gospel
of Peace. So making sort of a peace tower. And so a lot of the newest work was
my reaction, aesthetically, to, you know, what happened on September 11th. I made
a series of huge paper airplanes on handmade paper that has all the names of the
victims who died in the airplanes, drawn onto the paper airplanes. So you know,
I found a way to address and give thought to the victims, but also to think about
the best response as a human being. And for me, the best response was, you know
-- was communication, peace, and trying to develop a global peace movement. It
wasn't my hopes for what happened post-September 11th are different than how we
have evolved at this period. But right probably around September 12th, September
13th, I started doing this work and also started actively working with people
to develop some kind of global peace movement.
We're talking with Patti Smith. Her art opening is in Houston and she's playing
with her band tonight at La Zona Rosa, which is so exciting. And this art opening
Patti Smith: I thought, if I'm going to come to Texas, I
have to go to Austin. I don't think I've ever been to Texas in my life that I
didn't come to Austin. So I didn't want this to be the first time. So it was a
good excuse to come over and visit you and play. And we're excited. The band's
playing great. You know, I really feel on top of my game. And I'm happy to be
playing where we're playing, so
Jody Denberg: 'Cause
you guys were going to go out after the anthology Land and then there was a little
bit of an accident in the band.
Patti Smith: Yeah, yeah. Jay
had a very bad accident -- motorcycle accident and almost lost his leg. And so
that really shifted what happened there. And also, I was sort of being let go
by Arista, so it just didn't turn out the way that I was hoping. But we're in
a new time. I have a new home. I have a new contract with Columbia Records. And
they're very excited. They're really great people. They're totally supportive.
And they understand what type of band we are. They're not talking to me about
singles and videos and all that stuff. They talk about, y' know, communication
and content, developing a website that we can communicate ideas and give people
live tapes and a more generous website that I've been able to give in the past.
So I'm really excited about being at Columbia.