What is cool?
I believe the author, Henry David Thoreau said it best.
"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."
Robert Mapplethorpe embodies the meaning of eccentric cool - the man, the work, and the legacy.
Long before authenticity and branding were buzz words, Mapplethorpe was living it. It takes a lot to live your life out loud without any apology and record your most intimate moments with a camera. Mapplethorpe took his private sexual life and that of his friends and partners to share on a world stage. Living in the glam-poverty artist commune of the notorious Chelsea Hotel, Robert and his other artist friends created some of the most interesting and prolific work on the 20th Century.
If you look past the subject manner, you see someone who was a making a social statement bringing the leather and BDSM out of the dark and into the light. I always like to add a humorous or controversial piece to a room. It gives people something to talk about - whether they love it or hate it. Isn't that one of the effects of art?
Most significantly, Mapplethorpe's lighting is one of the aspects that he is most noted for in his photography, whether it be erotic, flower, or celebrity portraits. Light is so very important in interiors. Studying Mapplethorpe's use of natural and artificial light to draw attention and focus to his subjects has been a lesson of how impactful light can be in creating dramatic interiors in statement rooms. If you study it closely, he also uses light to create a mood or feeling. The various options available to me in a lighting design can do the same. Of course, dimmer switches and integrated technology only amplify this, today.
In the BBC documentary - Look at the Pictures - is the discussion of the "Mapplethorpe perfection". Having viewed his work both at The Getty Center and the LACMA in 2016, I was overwhelmed at the masterful craftsman in his ability to capture the perfect photo and edit it without today's technology of Photoshop, which has become a standard in post-production photo shoots. He was also known for working with his subjects to get the perfect photo. It was the moving just inches to get the best photo. What many clients don't see is my work behind the scenes of moving walls, furniture arrangements, or the creation of custom furniture all within an inch to create the perfect design.
Mapplethorpe had a vision, and he constantly stuck with it - no matter what. He was obsessed with using photography in ways that had never been done before. I totally can relate to this. In a sea of designers, I am constantly asking myself, "What can I do to make myself stand out from everyone else." I always start a project with a vision in mind of the final product. My research is a huge part of every project. There is a balance between exclusivity and accessibility in highly globalized designs of a romantic ideal of life that encompasses my love of history, architecture, fine art, fashion, and exquisite food. I often feel as though I have lived in a client's home before that have, because I have immersed myself in every nuance and detail within the confines of my imagination holding strong to my convictions and vision. As the legendary decorator, Elsie de Wolfe said, "When I draw up a set of plans there is no second choice. There is only what I show you. The best."
Mapplethorpe wasn't into leaving money to people after his death, but he wanted his legacy to live on. He begged his friends to tell his biographer everything and never quit talking about him. His estate generously donated The Robert Mapplethorpe Archives to The Getty Research Institute. The archives contain dozens of Polaroids, drawings, collages, and more than 200 unique works of art. I think it was his obsession with fame, which lead to his creation of the foundation, and his continued influence long after his death. In my study, I found that fashion designer, Raf Simons had drawn inspiration from his photographs for his Spring/Summer 2017 collection.
In the end, Robert Mapplethorpe got exactly what he wanted. He wanted to be famous and leave a lasting legacy that would continue to be talked about and inspire others. He definitely heard the beat of a different drummer - as do I. I find that you must listen to that beat and follow your own instincts to truly do anything of note in this world to leave a lasting impression.