My OBT

What if you spent every day looking for One Beautiful Thing?

Retrospective

14 Comments

Self Portrait 1980 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Self Portrait 1980 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Robert Mapplethorpe may be the first openly gay artist whose work I appreciated. That’s not right. He’s the first artist who I knew to be gay whose work grabbed me by the heart and the head and the eyes. He wasn’t just gay. Mapplethorpe was Gay. And that made an impression on not-sure-who-I-was-yet me.

We came from the same town. He grew up in Floral Park, NY, as did I. Yes, he was decades (two, to be exact) ahead of me, but I was still convinced we were connected somehow. He couldn’t get out fast enough, and neither could I.

“I come from suburban America. It was a very safe environment, and it was a good place to come from in that it was a good place to leave.”

As a style-maker, he was flawless in his instincts. As a photographer, he blew me away. But as a human being, his unapologetic self made an even bigger impression on me. Sure, I knew many gay men (and a few gay women), but they were private citizens. To be such a public figure and still entirely himself impressed me to no end. On many occasions, we were in the same place at the same time. I never got up the nerve to talk to him, but I was hyper-aware of where he was and what he was doing. In the early eighties, he (and I) frequented the same clubs, the same gallery openings, the same happenings that Andy Warhol and Boy George and the whole rest of NYC did, but HE WAS ALWAYS HIMSELF.  The rest of us darted from closet to closet, from shadow to shadow. Not Mapplethorpe. No shadows. No closets. Not ever.

So here are a few of my favorites among his portraits. There are hundreds, maybe thousands more. He had an eye like a scalpel, but he wasn’t unkind to his subjects. He let them look pretty. Desperate, sure. Depressed, lonely, maybe a little addled.* But pretty. That’s how I remember the eighties. He did that for me. Or to me. Either way, love him.

*Except Grace Jones, who is so much herself she blazes out of every picture ever taken of her. I’ve got to write a post about her one of these days. What a woman!

Andy Warhol 1986 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Andy Warhol 1986 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Francesca Thyssen 1981 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Francesca Thyssen 1981 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Paloma Picasso 1980 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Paloma Picasso 1980 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Grace Jones 1988

Grace Jones 1988 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

mapp 1

Deborah Harry 1978 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Patti Smith 1976 Robert Mapplethorpe 1946-1989 Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax from the Estate of Barbara Lloyd and allocated to Tate 2009 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P13083

Patti Smith 1976 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Richard Gere 1982 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Richard Gere 1982 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Iggy Pop 1981 Robert Mapplethorpe 1946-1989 ARTIST ROOMS  Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/AR00210

Iggy Pop 1981 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Doris Saatchi 1983 Robert Mapplethorpe 1946-1989 ARTIST ROOMS  Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/AR00155

Doris Saatchi 1983 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

mapp 3

Isabella Rosellini 1988 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Diane Benson 1980 Robert Mapplethorpe 1946-1989 ARTIST ROOMS  Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/AR00203

Diane Benson 1980 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Yoko Ono 1988 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Yoko Ono 1988 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Grace Jones 1984 Robert Mapplethorpe 1946-1989 ARTIST ROOMS  Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/AR00206

Grace Jones 1984 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Donald Sutherland 1983 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Donald Sutherland 1983 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Keith Haring 1984 Robert Mapplethorpe 1946-1989 ARTIST ROOMS  Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/AR00207

Keith Haring 1984 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Marianne Faithfull 1976, printed 2003 Robert Mapplethorpe 1946-1989 ARTIST ROOMS  Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/AR00204

Marianne Faithfull 1976 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Author: Donna from MyOBT

I have committed to spending part of every day looking for at least one beautiful thing, and sharing what I find with you lovelies!

14 thoughts on “Retrospective

  1. He was a talented artist. I especially like the portraits of Isabella Rosellini and Donald Southerland. And he caught a softer image of Yoko then normally seen.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yay, Isabella Rossellini & Yoko Ono are mentioned in the same blog post! Awesome portraits, all of ’em.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. True, Isabella hit the powerball in DNA. She inherited gorgeous genes and intelligence, class, the list goes on, but I’m too envious to type now.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What struck me was, speaking of DNA, isn’t it amazing how much Keifer Sutherland looks like his father?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. And yes, Isabella is so lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for this post! You reminded me of a body of work I love but hadn’t thought about in awhile.

    I fell in love with Mapplethorpe’s work the first time I saw it, an exhibit from his flower series at the NYC Library the first time I went to NY. I loved the sculptural quality of it. So I looked for more and found his work with Lisa Lyon. This is the one I remember. http://www.girlswithmuscle.com/97792/Lisa-Lyon Anyway, long story short, Mapplethorpe fed my love of photography, encouraged my belief in the sense of physical strength as a female, not exclusively male, value, and opened my eyes to some other stuff.

    I too loved how unapologetic he was about his life. It’s easy to forget how different things were when we were growing up. I am hardly far from the mainstream but just wanting to go to law school was viewed as inappropriate when I was a girl. I am grateful for the people who live large and change the world. and he was one of them.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Thank you for this. Very much. I hadn’t thought about him in years. Too long. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.