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Current Obsession: punk rocker Patti Smith pays tribute to her dead heroes in a new photo exhibition

Current Obsession: punk rocker Patti Smith pays tribute to her dead heroes in a new photo exhibition

Current Obsession: trailblazing punk rocker Patti Smith pays tribute to her dead heroes in a new photo exhibition

When the New York singer-songwriter Patti Smith hit the American music scene in the mid-’70s, there was no one quite like her. She hacked her hair into a shaggy bob, wore men’s suits and flaunted her unshaven armpits on album covers. She achieved mainstream success early on with her hit “Because the Night”—still a staple on classic-rock radio—but she was always more about celebrating outsiderhood than being a typical rock star. Now 66, the doyenne of punk is undergoing an artistic renaissance: her 2010 memoir Just Kids won a National Book Award, she recently released her 11th album, Banga, and she’s mounting a new photography exhibit.

Camera Solo, making its first Canadian appearance at the AGO this month, was partly born out of grief. Following the 1994 death of her husband, the guitarist Fred “Sonic” Smith, Patti found herself too devastated to write or play music, and so picked up a vintage Polaroid camera and started shooting mementos of her artistic idols. The mundane objects in Smith’s photos—Virginia Woolf’s cane, Hermann Hesse’s typewriter and Robert Mapple­thorpe’s slippers—hold a kind of talismanic magic. You can almost hear her gravelly voice whispering, “That very fork was used by Arthur Rimbaud.” Her unfettered reverence is contagious: you can’t help but look at her Polaroid Land 250 (pictured above), which also appears in the show, and think, “That very camera was used by Patti Smith.”

ART Patti Smith: Camera Solo Art Gallery of Ontario Feb. 9 to May 19

Current Obsession: trailblazing punk rocker Patti Smith pays tribute to her dead heroes in a new photo exhibition
Current Obsession: trailblazing punk rocker Patti Smith pays tribute to her dead heroes in a new photo exhibition
Current Obsession: trailblazing punk rocker Patti Smith pays tribute to her dead heroes in a new photo exhibition
Current Obsession: trailblazing punk rocker Patti Smith pays tribute to her dead heroes in a new photo exhibition
Current Obsession: trailblazing punk rocker Patti Smith pays tribute to her dead heroes in a new photo exhibition
Current Obsession: trailblazing punk rocker Patti Smith pays tribute to her dead heroes in a new photo exhibition

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