work their whole life.

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Cover Story -

through­out the decades, as much a pi­o­neer as a par­tic­i­pant.

Age­ing, how­ever, is one of life’s great lev­ellers – does she feel that the time to cre­ate more work is slip­ping away? “No one knows how long he or she is go­ing to live, you know,” she says in a ca­sual why-are-you-ask­ing-methat? tone. “The poet Arthur Rim­baud lived to only 37. Robert Map­plethorpe lived to only 42. I’ve al­ready out­lived Jack­son Pol­lock and John Coltrane. I think an artist can work their whole life, and if I’m lucky enough to live un­til I’m 90, maybe, I’ll be like Pi­casso and work un­til the very end.

“My work ethic hasn’t changed through­out my life. I work just as hard and feel that my work has strong qual­i­ties. Think­ing about how lit­tle time there is left is al­most a waste of time; one could get de­pressed about it. Fate can de­cide for or against you, so I think, ul­ti­mately, one should just take care of one­self and see what hap­pens.”

From her emer­gence in New York (via Chicago) in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when she hooked up with strug­gling artist/ pho­tog­ra­pher Robert Map­plethorpe (whom in her ex­traor­di­nar­ily el­e­gant 2010 mem­oir, Just Kids, she de­scribes as “the artist of my life”), Smith grad­u­ally made a name for her­self as a will­ing part­ner to ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. Noth­ing was closed or alien to her: per­for­mance art, spo­ken word, paint­ing, acting, rock jour­nal­ism, singing – all these and more formed the back­drop to her vir­tu­ally poverty-stricken New York life as friend, lover, co-con­spir­a­tor and muse to artists such as Map­plethorpe, play­wright and ac­tor Sam Shep­ard and Blue Oys­ter Cult’s Allen Lanier.

Yet it was as a singer and per­former that she gained a high pro­file. It helped that she fit­ted the pro­top­unk look like a leather glove: a whip­pet-thin, strin­gent beauty who fused scare­crow chic, Keith Richards-like an­drog­yny and arty po­etry with in­tel­li­gence and wit. Over the years she has con­tin­ued to fight the good fight against the dumb­ing­down of art as she blends rock’n’roll with po­etry and vice versa. Not for noth­ing has she been de­scribed as “Rim­baud with Mar­shall amps”.

“Many peo­ple have done that be­fore­hand,” she says. “I’m in a line of artists who have worked to in­fuse rock’n’roll with po­etry, the most im­por­tant be­ing, prob­a­bly, Jim Mor­ri­son. What­ever work I’ve done, be it in rock’n’roll or po­etry or ac­tivism or mother­hood, I’ve tried to do well.

“Ac­co­lades? I don’t de­pend on them, I don’t work to re­ceive them. If I get one I try to ac­cept it in the spirit that it was given. If they think I’ve been an in­flu­ence, or if they think my work has been of some avail, then that’s a nice thing, and I’m happy to be ac­knowl­edged.”

As a cre­ative per­son, what does she think is her defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic? “I like to work, and my defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic is that I carry that with me all of the time. Work isn’t a com­part­ment for me. Some peo­ple go to church on Sun­day and the rest of the week they don’t think about re­li­gion. Some peo­ple pray ev­ery day and God is with them as they walk. My cre­ative im­pulses are with me al­ways. I would do it whether or not it was


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