Denver exhibit turns the psychedelic 60s into the stuff of museums
We don’t think of the psychedelic artists of the 1960s the same way we do the abstract expressionists of the 1940s or the Impressionistswho came a century before.
But an art historian can see the similarities between those unrestrained movements that defined their decades — first in Paris, then New York and after that in counterculture San Francisco. There was a style built from rebellion and reflective of broader social shifts, a new, insider language, generated as subversion but adopted as the popular culture of the day.
And there were drugs, lots of drugs, interesting drugs, and everyone took them. Though maybe that was just San Francisco, and that’s surely not the point of the exhibit, “Visual Trips,” which is making theMyhren Gallery at the University of Denver a very fun place to hang out these days.
The exhibit features scores of posters, from 1965 to 1971, advertising rock shows for such performers as the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane. It’s one of the most complete and studied groupings of the genre ever assembled.
The era saw visual psychedelia reach new heights, and the posters indulge. There’s hardly a straight line or a clear image. Wavy, woozy, groovy, grainy stuff.
Objects appear, disappear and re-emerge as new objects. The longer you stare, the more interesting things become. Familiar styles, everything from Greek classicism to Art Nouveau tonewspaper comics, are oozed and infused with layers of meaning. Fonts follow their own rules, demanding two or three or a dozen tries to discern what they say.
That’s more tothe point of “Visual Trips,” the assertion that these artists were communicating in a new mode, that they had a common language in their marks, that they were actually an authentic school of art. They may have been working commercially, producing lithographs that were stapled to telephone poles and taped to storefront windows, but they were collaborating as a group, purposefully developing something they intended would last.
Of course, it helps that they were working mostly for the same employers, most notably the legendary promoter Bill Graham and hawking concerts at the same venues, either The Fillmore or theAvalon Ballroom. Concert producers saw the artists’ dreamy methods as a way of branding the business and encouraged their experimentation.
It also helps that there was a small corps of creators, most of whom knew one another and lived with each other’s output. Five artists in particular: Wes Wilson, Victor Moscoso, Stanley Mouse, Rick Griffin, and Alton Kelley.
Curator Scott Montgomery, a professor of Medieval and Renaissance art at DU, doesn’t hold back in his regard for their talents or his acceptance of their quirks, like the purposefully illegible words or drawing that varies in skill level. This is an exercise in elevation, moving a popular form into the world of fine art.
There are posters, but also a deep look at process. Mouse and Kelley’s collaborative offset lithograph for a 1966 Avalon Ballroom event is deconstructed, with the purple, green, black and red proofs displayed on the wall surrounding it.
The exhibit’s explanatory text, concise and easy to read, portrays the work as a product of its time, but also a leader of its moment. These artists defined what psychedelia looked like for anyone who walked the streets of San Francisco or bought albums by the Grateful Dead.
Montgomery wants us to understand just how broad the movement became. He gives due to peripheral artists in the show, like Bonnie MacLean and Lee Conklin, both serious talents. He includes posters for other events, like a 1967 production by the Pacific Ballet Company, to show how psychedelic ideas moved into the mainstream. In a few short years, those wavy lines would invade billboards and fashion and show up on lunch boxes and school notebooks.
As for the drugs, the exhibit simultaneously embraces them and distances itself. There’s no denying the influence of hallucinogenics — LSD in particular — on the artists’ imagination. The work can get wonderfully weird.
But Montgomery makes the point that these artists were drawing in this style before they dropped their first tab of acid and that this was serious business, not a Saturday in Golden Gate Park.
Drugs may have helped — well, let’s just assume they did — but they didn’t invent the imagination of these artists. They were products of their time, a line in history, and history is honoring their talents.
Ray Mark Rinaldi: 303-954-1540, email@example.com or twitter.com/rayrinaldi
VISUAL TRIPS The Vicki Myhren Gallery presents an exhibit of pop-art posters from 1960s San Francisco. Through Nov. 16. Shwayder Art Building, 2121 E. Asbury Ave., University of Denver campus. Free. 303.871.3716 or
The Shining Twins
Creatives from all around the world have submitted work inspired by Bill Murray for an
art tribute show called The Murray Affair, to celebrate the famous 63-year-old actor and
his legendary filmography.
In August, a Bob Dylan album may well arrive in stores concrete and virtual. It may be called Shadows in the Night. It may have a song called “Full Moon & Empty Arms” on it; a stream of the tune was released without comment on his website a couple of months ago. Why Dylan chose to record a cover of an old Sinatra track isn’t clear; it may, or may not, be a clue that the purported album will consist of covers. Dylan has just finished shows in Japan, Eastern Europe, and Scandinavia; will head next to Australia and New Zealand; and may or may not be preparing for a swing through the U.S. in the fall.
We think of Dylan in a pantheon of great rock stars, at or near the top of a select list that includes the Stones, Springsteen, maybe U2, but not too many other active artists. But he behaves much differently. He’s released more albums than Bruce Springsteen in the past 25 years and played more shows than Springsteen, the Stones, and U2 combined. Yet he hardly ever does interviews and does virtually nothing to publicize his albums or tours. For someone who seems to be in such plain sight, he remains hidden, present but opaque, an open book written in cipher. Normal questions don’t seem to do him justice. You want to ask: What is Bob Dylan? Why is Bob Dylan? After listening to him since I was a kid and seeing him live for—gulp—nearly 40 years, I think I’m beginning to figure it out.
You have to start by disregarding the well-told narrative: The soi-disant vagabond’s rise through folk music to a place of utter domination at the highest level of literate, passionate, and difficult pop and rock music, all by 1966; a retreat and Gethsemane until 1974, when he came back, roaring and vengeful, more passionately focused than before, adding a remarkable personal dimension to his ’60s work. After that, depending on how generously you view his career, there has been either a long decline or decades of remarkable and kaleidoscopic creativity, culminating in the triumphs, late in life, of his five most recent albums.
For an artist as rooted in our musical culture as Dylan, the linearity of a narrative works more to disconnect him from the influences and traditions his work comprises than to explain him. First, you have to appreciate the many layers that make up his peculiar but unmistakable aesthetic. His work is grounded in acoustic folk-blues—ballads, chants, and love stories, populated with mystical or just plain weird meanings and themes, rattling and farting around like tetched uncles in the attic of our American psyche. To this add the dread-filled dreamscapes—unexplainable, unnerving—of French Surrealism, and then, arrestingly, the punchy patois of the Beats, who originally intuited the substratum of social stresses that would whipcrack across the ’60s and into the ’70s. Then factor in personal songwriting, a strain of pop he basically invented, doled out first with obfuscations, payback, tall tales, and lies—some by design, some on general principle, some just to be an asshole—and then the signs, here and there (and then everywhere, the more you look), of autobiographical happenstance and deeply felt emotion.
And remember that some of his narratives are fractured. Time and focus shift; first person can become third; sometimes more than one story seems to be being told at the same time (“Tangled Up in Blue” and “All Along the Watchtower” are two good examples). And then there’s plain sonic impact: Even his earliest important songs have a cerebral and reverberating authority in the recording, his voice sometimes filling the speakers, his primitive but blistering guitar work adding confrontation, ease, humor, anger, and contrariness, presenting all but the most unwilling listeners with moment after moment of incandescence.
And, finally, a key component often overlooked: Dylan’s artistic process. On a fundamental level, he doesn’t trust mediation or planning. The story of his recording career is littered with tales of indecisive and failed sessions and haphazard successful ones, in both cases leaving frustrated producers and session people in their wake. You could say the approach served him well during his early years of inspiration and has hobbled him in his later decades of lesser work. Dylan doesn’t care. During the recording of Blood on the Tracks,which may be the best rock album ever made, one of the musicians present heard the singer being told how to do something correctly in the studio. Dylan’s reply: “Y’know, if I’d listened to everybody who told me how to do stuff, I mightbe somewhere by now.”
He came to New York in early 1961, telling anyone who’d listen he’d ridden the rails, played with Buddy Holly, all sorts of nonsense. In reality, he was a fairly middle-class kid who’d hitchhiked, in winter, from the far north of Minnesota; in a way, this single act of propulsion toward reinvention by a 19-year-old is braver and more interesting than all his later tall tales of travel. He arrived in New York on the coldest day the city had seen in many years.
He was a prodigy, with a natural affinity for a medium that would, unexpectedly, afford a few people like him international acclaim and a permanent place in the cultural firmament, and lots of money too. His uncanny musicianship—producing enduring melodies and lovely harmonica solos—included an ability to effortlessly transpose keys that would impress professionals throughout his career. He also had a first-class mind, quick (almost too quick) of wit and relaxed enough to let inspiration flow without forcing it, yet also wiry, retaining permanently the complex wording of many hundreds of tunes. He soaked up the songs and the lore of folk and blues, cobbling together a shtick—an Okie patois, a shambling affect, and a fixation with Woody Guthrie, the socialist troubadour of the ’30s and ’40s and the author of “This Land Is Your Land,” who at the time was dying in a New Jersey hospital. It all served to disguise, at first, a mysterious charisma—with eyes, as Joan Baez remembered them later, “bluer than robin’s eggs”—and an apparent ambition that left a few damaged friendships, and egos, in its wake.
Baez, stentorian and humorless, recorded her first album in 1960 and was a star the next year. (She moved to Carmel and bought a Jaguar.) Dylan got an early rave in the New York Times, which led to his record contract. His second album contained several tracks that became standards. One, “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” was a strikingly imagistic portrait of a child returning from a journey to impart wisdom to an older generation. It’s the place where Dylan’s self-definition begins to merge with his songs. On his third and fourth albums, Dylan showed he was capable of increasing nuance. “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” the compellingly told true story of a barmaid carelessly killed by a moneyed young drunk, still able to make one’s blood boil, never mentions Carroll’s race.
At the same time, his mash-up of influences was creating deeper, subtler work, producing mysterious moments like the end of “Boots of Spanish Leather.” The song, spare and lulling, is a dialogue between the singer and his lover, who’s going on a journey. The woman wants to bring the guy back a present; the guy keeps saying he wants nothing besides her return. She finally says she won’t be coming back for a while—at which point the guy asks for a gift: some “Spanish boots of Spanish leather.” It’s not clear why the word Spanish is repeated. Maybe the guy’s heart was broken, or maybe the woman was right—he did just want something from her. But there’s a self-referential meaning to the song as well: Dylan’s own journey. Stars, after all, promise devotion to their fans and then disappear, leaving a simulacrum of their former selves that fans can never get something authentic from.
Beginning in 1965, in a 14-month rush, Dylan released three albums—Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde—each with two or three (very) major songs, three or four relatively minor (but still mind-blowing) efforts, and some doggerel and fun for leavening, all in a great spew of poetic verbiage. Dylan’s voice had deepened and matured; it rang with clarity, snickered with derision, led us compellingly, at its best hypnotically, through nightmares and fever dreams. “Subterranean Homesick Blues” introduced a modern, rock-and-roll Dylan, blasting off political aphorisms softened with absurdities—“Don’t follow leaders / Watch the parking meters.” Lacerating new epics made his old epics seem trite. Take “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”; the title, and a potent Cold War reference in the first line, fixes our narrator seemingly as a wounded soldier, who then spends the rest of a very long song reflecting on the society he’s dying for. “Like a Rolling Stone” captured the second half of the decade in advance, a Scud missile of mockery directed at an entire pampered generation adrift. When Dylan howled the words “no direction home,” it was hard to tell if his tone was exultant or pained; it was a conundrum he and his audience have gnawed at ever since. In a telling example of how Dylan’s words can leapfrog meanings across decades, the song’s final silky lines—“You’re invisible now / You’ve got no secrets to conceal”—capture precisely the predicament of a new generation paradoxically rendered faceless by electronic connectivity and yet entirely without privacy.
Dylan’s remarkable work from this period is sometimes trivialized by stories about how he freaked everyone out by “going electric.” In I’m Not There, his cubistic cinematic portrait of Dylan, Todd Haynes represents the moment with the singer and his band mowing the crowd down with machine guns. Please. There were some boos at the Newport Folk Festival when Dylan and his electric band played there. But at least some of the reaction came from the high volume and poor sound quality of the performance, which was, after all, at a folk festival. Meanwhile, “Subterranean Homesick Blues” was Dylan’s first Top 40 hit, and “Like a Rolling Stone,” an unprecedented six minutes long, went to No. 2. Dylan’s move to electric is of course a key moment in his musical growth, and an interesting footnote in the history of 1960s American folk; but it was not a thumb in the eye of propriety. Everyone liked it!
Dylan is intensely private. More than almost any star I can think of, our understanding of his personal life is occluded and disjointed. His first wife was Sara Dylan, née Sara Lownds, née Shirley Noznisky. When they met, she was married to a guy in publishing in New York; early in their relationship, Dylan mentioned to an interviewer that he’d met a woman named Sara and that she was one of only two truly “holy people” he had ever met. (The other was Allen Ginsberg, though Ginsberg had never done a stint as a Playboy bunny.) “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” is widely seen as a tribute to Sara; it has a title that suggests the name Lownds and other lyrical hints (“Your magazine husband / Who one day just had to go”) and is placed ostentatiously to fill up the entire final side of Blonde on Blonde. Dylan’s memoir, Chronicles: Volume 1, some of which may be true, is at its most dyspeptic when the singer describes the hordes of hippies impinging on his and his family’s life by the mid-’60s. Using a motorcycle accident as an excuse, Dylan retreated in 1966 and began releasing country-flavored albums at long intervals to dampen his celebrity. In the meantime, he and Sara raised an eventual family of five in peace. The names and number of his children were widely misunderstood until the publication ofDown the Highway, a powerful, definitive biography by Howard Sounes, in 2001. (The children are Maria, from Sara’s first marriage; Jakob, whom you know from the Wallflowers; Jesse, a Hollywood and new-media guy, director of Will.i.am’s “Yes We Can” Obama music video; Anna, an artist who stays out of sight; and Samuel, a photographer who keeps a low profile as well. This is not to mention his second, secret wife and at least one other acknowledged child, but that’s a tale for another time.)
Dylan emerged in the mid-’70s to tour with the Band, release two of his strongest albums (Blood on the Tracks and Desire), and embark on a nutty and hilarious gypsy-caravan tour dubbed the Rolling Thunder Revue. His relationship with Sara was strained at this point, though she came along on the tour and even starred in his bizarre four-hour movie, Renaldo & Clara. But in the end, Dylan’s womanizing fueled what became a bitter divorce. His most plainly personal album is Blood on the Tracks, a lancing portrait of a romantic death spiral. (Jakob has said he gets no pleasure from listening to it: “When I’m listening to Blood on the Tracks, that’s about my parents.”) Among (many) other things, Blood on the Tracks is an exercise in emotional intensity, from self-pity and anger to ruefulness. There are obvious references to his wife in the wrenching “Idiot Wind” and also at the beginning of “Tangled Up in Blue” (“She was married when we first met / Soon to be divorced”). Blood on the Trackswas recorded in bizarre circumstances, first in New York and then more than half of it rerecorded in Minneapolis with a pickup band; yet its shuddering atmospherics and controlled, specific writing combined to make it the most organic and emotionally fulfilling work in Dylan’s canon.
The Rolling Thunder Revue saw the return of the lovely Baez; she sang “Diamonds & Rust,” her greatest song, a poison-pen love letter to Dylan, and did the frug behind Roger McGuinn during “Eight Miles High.” A decade on, in the ’80s, she and Dylan toured again, this time in Japan, with what was supposed to have been shared star billing. Baez inevitably became an opening act and eventually told the tour to fuck off, as she later told the story. Granted an exit audience with Dylan, she found him an aged version of the immature ragamuffin. He was tired but slipped his hand up her skirt for old times’ sake.
The next two decades were tough for him artistically; as Greil Marcus has put it, Dylan was essentially committing a “public disappearance.” Beginning in 1979, he tested his audience’s expectations and goodwill more tellingly than any punk by releasing three albums of unimaginative Christian-themed songs, along with two tours in which he plowed stolidly through this material. The problem was not Dylan’s beliefs, though they leaned to the crackpot; lots of acts had religious leanings—Van Morrison among them. It was how Dylan articulated those beliefs. To listen to the albums today is to enter a (not very) fun house of mediocrity and intolerance.
Dylan began to produce his own albums. He wasn’t dogmatic about it; he would once in a while bring in an outside producer—Mark Knopfler helped on Infidels, and Daniel Lanois superimposed a decent setting (and demanded a suite of coherent songs) for Oh Mercy. Other albums from the ’80s and ’90s were weirdly inconsistent in the quality of both the songs and the production values. Even weirder is the fact that Dylan was actually writing and recording some of his best work during this time. “The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar, “Blind Willie McTell,” “Caribbean Wind,” “Foot of Pride,” “Series of Dreams” … Authoritative and undeniable, they were better than anything his contemporaries were then releasing. Unfortunately, they were also better than anything Dylan was releasing and only turned up later on compilations albums.
In 1997, Lanois returned for Time Out of Mind. The critics went nuts over this work and the four regular releases since. I think these albums are woefully overrated, but they have sold well, and with the critics behind them, too, I’m willing to acknowledge the disconnect may be mine. But deep down I know that it’s hard to find, over the past ten or 15 years, more than three or four songs you’d stick on a mix tape to try to convince someone of this singer-songwriter’s greatness. Too many of his recent songs start with a pleasant-enough (or, more often, serviceable) riff—which is then beaten into the ground by his backing band. My hunch is that Dylan, producing in the studio, nods in inscrutable approval when he hears something he likes. The band, nervous but eager to please, obliges and starts playing the damn riff continuously. There’s no outsider around to tweak it or vary it or add dynamics.
In the folk-blues tradition, older songs were reappropriated and built upon; in his later years, Dylan has played with this tradition and found himself in mini-controversies when researchers find that some words in his songs first appeared somewhere else. Amateur sleuths discovered that his album “Love and Theft” had a pattern of lines seemingly taken from a fairly obscure Japanese writer, Junichi Saga. More recently, some obsessives started looking at passages in Chronicles and found lines taken from an astonishing variety of places, from self-help books to The Great Gatsby. The pickings seem to be phrases bouncing around the ragged mind of a guy with a photographic memory. On the other hand, some of the inner workings are plainly mischievous, like an in-passing list of news stories; the headlines were all from a mocking take on the press in John Dos Passos’s U.S.A.
To tweak the purists again, he’ll once in a while appear in a TV commercial—distracting from the subtle attention he pays to how posterity will see his work. He goes out of his away to appear on awards shows when they beckon; he’s shown his artwork and sells it online; his memoir, while odd, was nonetheless transfixing and reminded us that he was once a young man groping for a future and placing his bets on a very long shot indeed. The Dylan camp is readying an extraordinary digital archive of his songs, recordings, and paraphernalia. Dylan owns a coffeehouse, it’s said, in Santa Monica; unprepossessing and iconoclastic, it has an extremely friendly staff and no Wi-Fi. There’s not much on the walls, but you notice the references contained in what’s there: Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Muhammad Ali, Leonardo da Vinci. There’s one big oil painting behind the counter, one that looks a lot like Dylan’s own work, silent and content in the company it keeps.
And then there’s the touring. In Chronicles, Dylan details, with seeming frankness, the aimlessness that brought him to a slough of despond at the end of the ’80s. He may have been facing what all rock stars who survive face, which is how to grow old gracefully in a medium cruelly tied to youthfulness. He resolved to get out and play his songs—and went back on the road in 1988 with a small, seldom-changing backing ensemble, with whom he delved into his back pages, including many songs he’d never played live before.
Here’s the odd thing—26 years on, he hasn’t stopped. He’s been playing about 100 shows annually ever since, growling through a set of songs old and new with a small band. It’s an endeavor that for a good chunk of each year keeps him on a private bus and, in the U.S. at least, in relatively crummy hotel and motel rooms. (He’s said to prefer places that have windows that open and allow him to sleep with his pet mastiffs. Beyond that, they are places fans wouldn’t expect to find him.) The shows at first may have been a tonic, but over time they revealed themselves to be a panacea. It must have struck Dylan: How could he look foolish if he just kept doing the same thing? If he were an artist, he would continue to create and show his art publicly. If he were a celebrity, he would appear in public. And if he were a seer, a prophet, or even a god, well, he would let folks pay and see for themselves how mortal such figures actually were. And far from saturating the market, he has created a new industry for himself as a touring artist. On a good night he makes some of his best-known songs unrecognizable, and on a bad one you come out wondering what it was, exactly, you’ve just seen. So far this year, the 73-year-old has played in Japan (17 shows), Hawaii (two), Ireland, Turkey, and nearly 20 other cities in the hinterlands of Europe; he’s headed now to more than a dozen shows in eight different cities in Australia and New Zealand—and this is before what should be a fall run through the States. Robert Shelton, the New York Times writer who first noticed Dylan, labored on a biography for more than 20 years; seeing the star’s unstable arc on its publication in 1986, he titled it, grandly, No Direction Home. Dylan hadn’t even begun not to go home.
I was born here and I’ll die here against my will
I know it looks like I’m moving, but I’m standing still
Every nerve in my body is so vacant and numb
I can’t even remember what it was I came here to get away from
Don’t even hear a murmur of a prayer
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there
I can’t even remember what it was I came here to get away from. The exultant cry of “no direction home” derived its power from the fact that, in the end, any place new was better than where we’d come from. In that context, not remembering what you left originally is a remarkable statement of anomie.
Still, we might have focused over the years too much on the word direction, as in “heading toward.”
Maybe “no direction home” means that there’s no guidance home, that you have to figure it out for yourself.
If Bob Dylan is a question, maybe this is the answer. Given the chance, Dylan will give the audience his art, unadulterated, as he creates it, and nothing more. He believes it’s a corruption of his art to be directed by someone else’s sensibility. In its own weird way, isn’t this one sacred connection between artist and audience? It might be nicer if he did things differently. It might be more palatable, more commercially successful. (He might be somewhere by now.) This is what ties together his signal creations, his ongoing shows, and even the wretched albums of the ’80s and ’90s; what he does might be sublime and ineffable or yet also coarse and unsuccessful; it is what it is, defined by where it comes from, not what it should be. Even his remoteness is a by-product; it’s what he deserves after having given his all. Call the work art, call it crap, call it Spanish boots of Spanish leather, but in the end it’s the creation of an artist who defies us to ask for something more.
*This article appears in the July 28, 2014 issue of New York Magazine.
Timelessness is a quality we all strive for in our images. It’s a quality earned, not given, through the time and effort put into conceptualizing, visualizing and capturing an image.
And when it is earned, the results are phenomenal… oftentimes winding back the clock or making time seem almost irrelevant to the image. Such is the case for the work of #Michael Crouser, a Minnesota-based photographer who has spent the past eight years documenting cattle ranching families in Colorado.
The photographs Crouser captures leave us guessing at when they were taken and what gear was used. #Monochrome, filled with distinct tones and dramatic contrast, the images seem to almost pop off the screen.
Speaking with the #Huffington Post, Crouser was asked about the lifestyles and work of the cattle ranching families he’s spent just shy of a decade documenting.
His reply, as you might expect, was that the work these families do is not for the faint of heart; however, for generations it’s all they’ve done, and therefore all they know. They will continue to live “the simple life” for as long as they can until developers begin taking the land away piece by piece.
On that note, Crouser goes on to point out that such a lifestyle probably isn’t going to be one that his subjects’ children and grandchildren will have.
“As the land in this region of Colorado becomes more valuable and practical for development than for growing hay and grazing cattle, ranching will disappear,” he tells Huff Po. “Along with these families, their operations and traditional ways of working.”
Below is a collection of images Crouser has been kind enough to share with us:
A Haight-Ashbury Museum of Psychedelic Art and History is in development in San Francisco, but former Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen has beaten them to the idea. In June, Kaukonen will officially open the Psylodelic Museum, a collection of Haight-connected artifacts, at his Fur Peace Ranch in southeast Ohio.
“It’s a window of the time,” Kaukonen says. “To use a mixed-metaphor song title, it’s about the way we were.”
Housed in an old silo on the grounds of the ranch (hence the punny name), the museum currently includes donations from Kaukonen and longtime San Francisco-related friends. From his own personal collection, Kaukonen contributed concert posters from the Fillmore and Winterland (featuring Love, Muddy Waters and Moby Grape) as well as a rug from the famed Jefferson Airplane house. His old friend Wavy Gravy donated the sleeping bag he used at Woodstock. Jack Casady, Kaukonen’s former Airplane bandmate and ongoing partner in Hot Tuna, donated a custom-made tunic he wore at Woodstock and some of his old eyeglasses.
“You look at this stuff and think, ‘What were we thinking?'” Kaukonen says with a chuckle. “Jack had some of these unbelievably large glasses – like Elton John’s but without the jewelry.”
Casady credits his late wife, Diana, who recently passed away from cancer, with helping him salvage his vintage wardrobe. “I would say to her, ‘I’ll just rid of these clothes,’ and she would say, ‘No, we’ll find a place for them,'” he says. “So years ago I had them all dry-cleaned and hung and stuck in a closet. The clothes went along with the whole scene back then. It wasn’t about your image. It was just a hoot getting involved in designing your own clothes and guitar straps.”
In a sign of how far the musicians pushed the fashion envelope at the time, Casady remembers once trying to wear an outfit made from furniture upholstery: “The material was fantastic, but it was too hot to play in, so it was almost unusable.”
Although the posters and milieu bring to mind the heyday of the Airplane and theGrateful Dead, Kaukonen says tie-dye will be in short supply at the museum (which has so far raised just over $25,000 on Kickstarter); “A lot of people think of hippies as tie-dyed, but my memory of what I consider to be hippies is the people who dressed in Edwardian clothes or things from the American West,” he says. In that vein, Kaukonen donated some of the Native American-based jewelry he bought at the time, including a necklace that unintentionally resembled the Nazi symbol. “I wore it for a number of years,” he says. “Obviously, many people saw the Hakenkreuz [the Nazi party symbol], not the spiritual item I saw.”
Many items from the era didn’t survive those heady times. Kaukonen says his own patch-covered bell bottoms are long gone (“mercifully,” he says), as are Casady’s legendary headbands. The bassist’s own set of Fillmore concert posters also bit the dust. “When I shared a flat with Marty Balin in the Panhandle in San Francisco, I had every poster pinned to the wall,” Casady recalls. “So when it was time for me to get a house of my own, I just left them all on the wall. And there you have it.”
For future exhibits, Kaukonen is hoping to reach out to old musical friends like David Crosby and Paul Kantner, as well as Grace Slick, who retired from music years ago and now concentrates on painting. “She doesn’t do email,” he says, “so when I called her last year and got her answering machine, her outgoing message is her blowing a huge raspberry. Grace is still so funny.”
Founded in 1989, Fur Peace Ranch hosts guitar workshops and concerts (Steve Earlerecently played there), and Kaukonen admits that pulling in additional tourist revenue is another goal of the museum. “Even though we’re non-profit, we’re only non-profit by accident,” he says with another laugh. “My wife, Vanessa, thought we should have something of interest, like roadside America. All I know is that it’s going to be more interesting than the world’s largest ball of twine in Kansas.”
Where the Ocean Meets the Mountains
MOUNTAINVILLE, N.Y. — When the painter Winslow Homer left New York City for this Hudson Valley hamlet in the summer of 1878, he was reported to be “a little under the weather.” He was probably suffering a nervous breakdown. Whether the cause was a failed romance or despair at seeing the Gilded Age shatter around him, we don’t know. But he felt unmoored and clung to the natural world. The dozens of watercolors he did that summer were landscape-filled, with sloping pastures and wall-like mountains dwarfing human figures, idylls so perfect that they look unreal.
These mini-Catskills were conceived and built — molded is really the word — by the artist Maya Lin as a permanent installation at the Storm King Art Center, the 500-acre sculpture park that for almost half a century has been devoted to the display of outdoor works either designed for the location or too large or strange to fit comfortably elsewhere.
Ms. Lin’s ambitious piece, “Storm King Wavefield,” was commissioned by the center, and installation of it, under the supervision of David R. Collens, an artist and Storm King’s director, began two years ago. Set in a shallow, amphitheaterlike depression, once a gravel pit supplying material for the Thruway, it covers 11 acres. Its seven parallel rows of rolling, swelling peaks were inspired by the forms of midocean waves but echo the mountains and hills around them.
Marine references make sense in a part of the world carved and smoothed by glaciers, and terrestrial themes have been central to Ms. Lin’s art. “My affinity has always been toward sculpting the earth,” she wrote in her autobiographical book “Boundaries” (2000). “This impulse has shaped my entire body of work.”
That impulse was little remarked upon at the beginning of her career, when she was known mostly as a creator of urban commemorative sculptures, the first and most famous being her Vietnam Veterans Memorial for the Mall in Washington. Designed when she was still a graduate student in architecture at Yale, this long, low chevron of buffed black granite inscribed with names of the war dead was as much a monument to healing and humility as to heroics, and it became a flashpoint for American feelings about a divisive war and a disorienting era.
A few years later she completed the Civil Rights Memorial for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., again using black stone, this time a circular, tablelike slab of it incised with a historical timeline and rinsed by fountain water. In 1993 she returned to that format for her “Women’s Table” at Yale. Dedicated to the many women who had been underacknowledged presences at the university since the 19th century, the stone was carved with an open-ended spiral of numbers, each marking the enrollment of women in the university in a given year, with 1969 footnoted: “Yale admitted women into the undergraduate college.”
Initially, the political content of these works defined them. Now it is possible to step back and reassess them in light of Ms. Lin’s subsequent career, which took her out of the memorial business and in the more directly earth-sculpturing direction, a direction that, it turns out, she had been following all along.
Ms. Lin’s originating image for the Vietnam memorial, with its plain, straight slant like a Hudson Valley hillside, was of a blade slicing into and wounding the earth. The Civil Rights Memorial and “Women’s Table” were both based on a single natural process: the slow but certain shaping of earth, in the form of stone, by water. All three pieces were meant to interact organically, even sensually, with their viewers, inviting them to run their hands over stone, feel and hear the trickle of water.
In short, Ms. Lin was making a species of “earth art” from the start. And she has done so unequivocally since, most strikingly in a small series of “wave” pieces formed from piled and packed soil.
The first, “Wave Field,” installed at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1995, is a 10,000-square-foot grouping of earthen mounds, the highest six feet, their shapes based on those of scientifically measured ocean waves. The second piece, “Flutter,” covers 30,000 square feet of a plot near the Federal Courthouse in Miami; the undulant shapes, child-size at three to four feet high, were inspired by the textures made in sand by the action of waves.
Small working models for these works are on view, along with several indoors pieces, in the exhibition “Maya Lin: Bodies of Water” in the Storm King Art Center Museum.
The “Storm King Wavefield” is the third and last of the series and by far the largest at 240,000 square feet, with heights of 15 feet. Like its predecessors, it is made of natural materials: dirt and grass. Like any landscape, it is a work in progress. Vegetation is still coming in, drainage issues are in testing mode, and there are unruly variables: woodchucks have begun converting one wave into an apartment complex.
But the piece is already a classic. It has the gravity of Ms. Lin’s commemorative sculptures and the sociability of the earlier “wave” pieces, which lent themselves to picnics, play and privacy. And, more immediately than almost any of her other outdoor projects, it is inextricable from nature, which is where, as I say, all her art starts.
Born in 1959, Ms. Lin was raised in rural Ohio, and as a child visited the great Serpent Mound and other American Indian earthworks in the Midwest. Through her father, a ceramicist who grew up in a Japanese-style house in China, she developed an affinity for the nature-saturated, but also nature-framing, aesthetic embodied in the Zen rock-and-sand garden, and in the Chinese ink-and-brush landscape, with its misted and surreally scaled vistas.
As a distillation of nature, the Zen garden is highly controlled: you view it from a fixed point and from a distance; you don’t physically enter it. In that sense, it is an image rather than an environment. By contrast, the “Storm King Wavefield” is embracingly environmental.
Seen from a slight elevation, it complements its hilly setting but interrupts it. (There is, after all, something a little freakish about these slinky, reptilian swellings in the ground.) Because the work does both, it sharpens your eye to existing harmonies and asymmetries otherwise overlooked.
When you descend into the troughs between the lines of waves, you may experience an entirely different set of sensations. You lose sight of all the other waves and of the larger prospects beyond them. Now you are down in the earth; it is rising over you, not you over it. You’re suddenly smaller, but also protected. Outside sounds are muffled, large-scale distractions reduced. The grand vision of hills upon hills, recession upon recession, drops away.
With it gone, you’re encouraged to concentrate on the details of what’s around you. That’s what, I suspect, all of Ms. Lin’s outdoor work is asking you to do: touch the stone, feel the water, smell the air, see how that patch of grass is different from another.
I suspect that the search for a similar kind of focus, and the relief from boundlessness it brings, is what Homer was after in Mountainville that summer. Whether he found it, I don’t know. He ended his life in a very different landscape, on the coast of Maine, where he produced painting after painting of waves crashing on rocks, water demolishing land, ceaseless natural destruction frozen in time.
In its own way, some of Ms. Lin’s most recent work has a similarly adamant, end-time character. I refer to the long-planned, multipart project she calls “The Last Memorial,” with which, over decades, she plans to monitor globally the corruption and demise of the natural environment that has been her subject and source.
What forms she will call on remain to be seen. But “Storm King Wavefield” is a different kind of work. Neither fatalistic nor utopian, commemorative nor history-free, natural nor artificial, unstable nor fixed, it is a puzzle to ponder but also — first things last — a soul-soothing place of retreat.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: May 9, 2009
An art review and headlines on Friday about a new installation by Maya Lin at the Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, N.Y., misidentified the region of New York State where the center is. It is in the Hudson Valley, not the Catskills.
These artists were all masters of their craft. While their road was never easy, you can see they had a special passion and determination in their element. It’s inspiring to see people do what they seem to have been born to do.
1. Alfred Hitchcock directs the MGM roaring lion
2. Louis Armstrong serenades his wife at the Sphinx
3. Jim Henson and crew working on Sesame Street
4. Hunter S. Thompson escapes to Big Sur, California to write
5. The Monty Python crew partaking in tomfoolery
6. The young Beastie Boys fight for their right to party
7. Pablo Picasso at his home studio
8. Johnny Cash’s famous performance at Folsom Prison
9. Nikola Tesla in his lab
10. Bill Watterson draws Calvin and Hobbes
11. Stanley Kubrick sneaks a photo over Jack Nicholson’s shoulder
12. Salvador Dalí paints an abstract portrait of 25-year-old Raquel Welch
13. Nat King Cole twinkles on the piano
14. Ella Fitzgerald sings for Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman 
15. Tom Waits goes airborne
16. Tony Hawk at a local skate park in the 1980s
17. A young Bob Dylan jams on a stoop
18. Jimi Hendrix playing with the 101st Airborne while stationed in Kentucky 
19. John Lennon leads The Quarry Men . Paul Mccartney watches from the crowd on the day they would meet. [July 6, 1957]
20. U.S. chess prodigy, Bobby Fisher, plays 50 opponents simultaneously at a Hollywood hotel. He won 47, lost 1, and drew 2. [April 12, 1964]
updated 11:25 AM EDT, Sun April 27, 2014
The Andy Warhol Museum released images that were recently recovered from an Amiga computer. Warhol created the images as part of a commission by the Commodore computer company, which made the Amiga, to demonstrate the computer’s graphic arts capabilities. The images had been trapped on floppy discs in an obsolete format. One of the images released is this self-portrait titled “Andy2.” The Andy Warhol Museum released images that were recently recovered from an Amiga computer. Warhol created the images as part of a commission by the Commodore computer company, which made the Amiga, to demonstrate the computer’s graphic arts capabilities. The images had been trapped on floppy discs in an obsolete format. One of the images released is this self-portrait titled “Andy2.”
Warhol created his vision of “Venus” with three eyes.
The Commodore Amiga computer, software and other equipment used by Warhol.
The works, created on an Amiga computer, were trapped on floppy disks
They include doodles and experiments with the pop artist’s iconic images
Archivist: “We can only wonder how he would explore and exploit” today’s technologies
(CNN) — The soup can looks familiar in an unfamiliar way, but the name at the bottom of the image is unmistakable: Andy Warhol.
The Andy Warhol Museum announced Thursday the discovery of new works by the pop artist, works which had been trapped on floppy disks for close to 30 years.
They were made on an Amiga computer in 1985 and were unlocked by the Carnegie Mellon University Computer Club and its Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, according to a statement from the museum.
“Warhol saw no limits to his art practice. These computer-generated images underscore his spirit of experimentation and his willingness to embrace new media — qualities which, in many ways, defined his practice from the early 1960s onwards,” said Eric Shiner, The Warhol’s director.
The works were commissioned by the now-defunct Commodore International to showcase the computer’s capabilities. They include doodles and experiments with Warhol’s iconic images, like the Campbell’s soup can.
The works might have been lost forever if it had not been for Cory Arcangel, an artist who watched a YouTube clip showing Warhol promoting the release of the Amiga 1000 in 1985.
He started to poke around, eventually approaching the museum’s chief archivist to talk about the possibility of searching for the files amid The Warhol’s archives collection.
“In the images, we see a mature artist who had spent about 50 years developing a specific hand-to-eye coordination now suddenly grappling with the bizarre new sensation of a mouse in his palm held several inches from the screen,” said Matt Wrbican, the archivist.
The works have since been extracted and backed up so they can be saved, even if the floppy disks fail.
“We can only wonder how he would explore and exploit the technologies that are so ubiquitous today,” Wrbican said about Warhol.
Warhol painting sold for $105.4 million