Robert Mapplethorpe died on the morning of this day, March 9th, 1989, due to complications from HIV/AIDS. He was 42 and at the height of his succes. He is forever one of our favorite photographers and forever a reminder of the devastating impact AIDS had on the gay and artistic community. A few days before Mapplethorpe’s death his friend Patti Smith wrote him a letter he never got the chance to read:
‘Dear Robert, Often as I lie awake I wonder if you are also lying awake. Are you in pain, or feeling alone? You drew me from the darkest period of my young life, sharing with me the sacred mystery of what it is to be an artist. I learned to see through you and never compose a line or draw a curve that does not come from the knowledge I derived in our precious time together. Your work, coming from a fluid source, can be traced to the naked song of your youth. You spoke then of holding hands with God. Remember, through everything, you have always held that hand. Grip it hard, Robert, and don’t let it go.
The other afternoon, when you fell asleep on my shoulder, I drifted off, too. But before I did, it occurred to me looking around at all of your things and your work and going through years of your work in my mind, that of all your work, you are still your most beautiful. The most beautiful work of all. Patti.”
picture self portrait 1988