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Patti Smith: A pre-DIA exhibit Q&A

for Journal Register Newspapers

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On a rainy afternoon in New York City, Patti Smith spent a few minutes talking about returning to Detroit, her "Patti Smith: Camera Solo" exhibit opening at the Detroit Institute of Arts and the performances with son Jackson Smith and daughter Jesse Smith that are accompanying it, and her new album, "Banga," which comes out June 5:

Detroit was home for a long time. What's it like to come back?

Smith: I'm very excited. I'll be in Detroit for five days, and hopefully we'll visit Fred (Smith, her late husband and former MC5 guitarist), visit the cemetery. There's always places I like to go. I always like to go to Lafayette Coney Island, where Fred and I met. I got to the Mariner Church, where we were married. We always revisit those places.

And you get to work with the kids, both of whom also play on "Banga."

Smith: Jackson is the one who really put everything together. It will be all Detroit musicians, some friends of Jackson's. They're really rehearsing. We're doing a lot of old favorites and a couple of songs from the new album. I just thought that since the (photo) exhibit was opening it would be great to come and play with my son and daughter and some other Detroit musicians. I'm excited about it.

How would you describe the "Camera Solo" exhibit?

Smith: It's the exhibit that was at the (Wadsworth) Atheneum Museum in Connecticut. It's a traveling exhibit, but some of the pieces are tailored to Detroit. I went to Mexico and took pictures in (painter) Frida Kahlo's house specifically for the show. Also, Fred has this dream that his Mosrite (guitar) would someday be in a museum...and we're going to show it within the exhibit. I really know that Fred would love that because Fred loved the DIA. I've had (the guitar) all these years. It stays under my bed, and Fred gave me explicit instructions what to do with his guitars. But he did have a certain dream for this Mosrite, and I think it's time to take it out for a little while and let the people see Fred's guitar. It is like a work of art. It's quite beautiful.

Do the different aspects of your work -- photography, poetry, prose writing, music -- impact on each other?

Smith: In some ways I'm sure they do, but...the show was planned before the album's release date, so (the proximity) is just serendipitous. I have certain core things I want to say, and as I get older it changes. All of my records reflect some kind of study or questions I'm asking myself, but this particular record really reflects the things I was studying, the books I was ready. I knew I wanted it to be an album that explored new territory, but I wanted to add reflections on the state of our environment -- that was the political issue I was most concerned about. It seems like the album is divided between portraits of people and, I'd say, exploration. It has its themes.

"Patti Smith: Camera Solo" opens on June 1 at the Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward Ave. The exhibit runs through Sept. 2. Smith and her children Jackson and Jesse perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday; the show is sold out. Call 313-833-4005 or visit www.dia.org. Smith and her children also perform an benefit for Covenant House at 8 p.m. Sunday, June 2, at Sinbad's, 100 Saint Clair St., Detroit. Call (313) 822-8000. Tickets are $20 and available at the venue or at Joe's Music, 24525 Gratiot Avenue Eastpointe. Call (586) 777-2333.

Web Site: www.dia.org

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