Every night before I go to sleep
Find a ticket, win a lottery
Scoop the pearls up from the sea
Cash them in and buy you all the things you need
Patti Smith – Horses
Two drifters off to see the world.
There's such a lot of world to see.
We're after the same rainbow's end
waiting 'round the bend,
my huckleberry friend,
Moon River and me.
While thinking about what I would paint about Free Money (one of my favorite tracks amongst the compositions of Horses), I immediately thought of the similarities, and at the same time the differences (some contradictory alchemy, fire and ice type, that I found very interesting and that motivated my painting), between the characters of two young women, in appearance total opposites, but linked each to the other by the requirement for a better life - amongst other attributes.
Each woman symbolizes an era, one characterized by recklessness and optimism, the other by protest, struggle and demand.
The young Patti Smith of the early 70s, some kind of protopunk wild cat, bearing the androgynous looks of a New York Gavroche, lived the life of a penniless homeless hobo, most of the time literally starving in the city while she tried to storm the Big Apple, having just arrived from New Jersey where her family was residing at the time.
Arriving in New York in 1967, she tried to put the maximum distance from the all mapped out and dull future that her suburbian life destined her to live and was ready to do anything to clear her way to art, poetry and music (with the succes we know). With, by the same token, the assumed and urgent desire to have money to live, since she had missed it so much during her struggling New York debut. This did not prevent her years later from having a solid sense of humor when she reportedly said: Once I was with him (William Burroughs) and I asked him this question: “What should I aspire to?” and he thought, and he said: “My dear, a gold American Express would be good.” (Brain Pickings - Patti Smith’s advice on life by Maria Popova)
Holly Golightly (starring Audrey Hepburn), the heroine of Breakfast at Tiffany's, is a young woman with the recherché sophisticated look of the early 60s, who unashamedely has a one and only goal: to get rich and to increase her social success. But in the meantime, the girl lives the life of an uprooted bohemian, like the homeless alley cat she has adopted and with which she strongly identifies.
Holly lands in New York straight from her native Texas, that she left in order to put a maximum distance from her childhood tinged by poverty, an immature marriage and the mediocre and monotonous future that her provincial adolescence guaranteed she would live. In New York, she lounges in sofas created from former bathtubs, adorned with pop gaudy colored pillows, she daydreams of diamonds before Tiffany’s windows (and the dollars they represent), ready for anything with men just to get jewels – and money.
Both of these uprooted misfits, gone away on the road of life, do share something else as well.
The precarious existence, the bad times, but also the exhilarating encounters that New York offers to young Patti Smith do not distance her from her family cocoon. Her heart stayed in New Jersey and two compositions in Horses were inspired by her sisters Linda and Kimberly (Redondo Beach and Kimberly).
Holly Golightly never shuns champagne and adventures with men from whom she hopes to obtain the financial comfort that she’s been so desperately seeking. In reality, she thinks only of her younger brother Fred, the only one she really cares for, her only family and her real root, gone from Texas because of the army – anxiously awaiting news from him every day.
What interested me most in this meeting between these Two drifters off to see the world (Moon River - lyrics by Andy Williams, music by Henry Mancini - soundtrack of Breakfast at Tiffany's) is the gap that separates the two distinct eras that saw them born and in which each attempt to escape their destiny to build another one, and of course the differences in the womens’ physical appearance and posture. And between both eras, the considerable shift that obviously occurred.
At first sight, a world separates the wonderful, lovely romance of Moon River from the harsh, oneiric, existential and exhilarating Free Money of Patti Smith.
A world separating the late 50s-early 60s from the late 60s-early 70s.
A world that has changed radically during these ten years.
At first glance, Holly Golightly is the opposite of Patti Smith, being as refined, seductive, scatterbrained, superficial and glamorous as Patti Smith is cerebral, tough, androgynous, austere and radical.
At first sight only.
In fact, it is only the veneer that time passes over the beings that changes them: Between the early Sixties and the early Seventies, life hardened. Vietnam and disillusionment were there, young people who wanted more rebelled, violence became a must, young women no longer relied on men to have "easy money " just because they were emancipated and proved ready to punch hard to get it.
Therefore, the young woman who escaped the greyness of New Jersey built her own codes of beauty and femininity, which Robert Mapplethorpe’s sublime portrait, used on the extraordinary sleeve of Patti Smith’s Horses, captures so well.
I'm not sure that Holly Golightly, to whom the wonderful and unique Audrey Hepburn lent her elegant, radiant and spicy beauty and her auburn chignon mixed with gold, is finally more "beautiful" than the Patti Smith from Horses in her late twenties, with her fine-boned extreme slimness encompassed in a supple body tapered like a steel beam that she showed then, her translucent complexion, her gray-gold-blue eyes glowing like fire and her loose, free and wild black mane that no comb seemed ever able to tame. Only the appearance changes, as beautiful in one case as in the other, but on radically different aesthetic reading grids. The background, the essence remain the same: the fragility of the uprooting, the refusal of the codes and rules, the pursuit of love, and the everyday nagging, burning, obsessive vital question: how am I going to get myself some dough!
Free Money? Come on, wandering drifters, you’ll have just
to break the window, and the pearls and diamonds
That you could never have, but still always longed for,
are there awaiting in self-service,
shimmering like a river
in the moonlight.