Thursday, November 10, 2011

Writing about Womyn's Lands, then and now

In 2009, author Ariel Levy wrote this fantastic piece on the promise of lesbian radical empowerment in the seventies, as seen in the Womyn's Lands section of West of Center

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hibiscus' scrapbook

Hibiscus (George Harris III)
Scrapbook (detail), 1966-68
Mixed media scrapbook, 8 x 10 in (closed)
Private collection

Below are selected pages from a scrapbook created by Cockettes founder Hibiscus (George Harris III) between 1966-1968. According to Ann Harris, the scrapbook was a compilation of notes, scores and studies for his performances, and many of the pages list which performance they relate to.

Nomadic Experiments: Ant Farm Inflatables

Left to right: Doug Michels, Hudson Marquez, Betsy Ross Edison, Ben Holmes,
and Randy Eberle with Media Van, Los Angeles (1971), 2011
Archival digital print, 24 x 36 in
Courtesy Chip Lord
Art Farm was an experimental architecture and new media-based collective founded in San Francisco in 1968. Collective members believed both architecture and media could be created by anyone using cheap, readily available materials and skills taught ad hoc from one person to another. They created inflatable environments at numerous happenings, schools, conferences, and festivals, notably the Rolling Stones’ free concert at Altamont.

DROP CITY a documentary film to be premiered at MCA Denver early 2012

As part of West of Center, MCA Denver will host the world premier of DROP CITY a documentary film by Joan Grossman and Tom McCourt. This feature-length documentary tells a story of whimsical innovation and the drive to create a new civilization on the scrapheap of a wasteful society. Keep your eyes peeled to the MCA Denver website in early 2012 for more details.

Expanded Cinema II: The Ultimate Painting

Richard Kallweit
The Ultimate Painting, 1966.
Photographic documentation of a collaborative work between Clark Richert, Richard Kallweit, JoAnn Bernofsky, Gene Bernofsky and Charles DiJulio.
Courtesy the artist.
The original members of the Drop City commune established near Trinidad, Colorado, collaboratively produced The Ultimate Painting in an improvisational manner. Conceived in 1966, just as light shows were emerging as a popular art form, The Ultimate Painting was made to spin during multi-media shows in Drop City’s Theater Dome.

Feminist Collectives: Womyn’s Lands of Southern Oregon

Ruth Mountaingrove
Lake of the Woods Gathering, 1974
Digitized archival  slide, 4 x 6 in
Courtesy Special Collections and University Archives,
University of Oregon Libraries
In the 1970s, feminists established a network of rural communities where women creatively lived and worked to reimagine life outside of patriarchy. The largest concentration of communities within this network—often referred to as womyn’s or lesbian lands—existed in southern Oregon. These communities offered their residents a range of unique experiences that put feminist principles into action.

Political Graphics: The Posters of Emory Douglas

In 1968, artist Emory Douglas was appointed Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party, the African American revolutionary organization active between 1966 and 1982. Douglas’ job description included, among other creative projects, the design of posters that appeared on the streets and were published in the party’s official newspaper, The Black Panther.

Expanded Cinema I: The Single Wing Turquoise Bird

The Single Wing Turquoise Bird performing in the Cumberland Mountain Film Company studio in 1970.
From The Single Wing Turquoise Bird website.
“During the last years of the 1960s and the first of the 1970s—the heyday of the psychedelic era—the premier light show in Los Angeles, and one of the best in the world, was the Single Wing Turquoise Bird,” writes cinema historian David E. James.

Dome Architecture: Drop City and Beyond

Clark Richert Drop City Panorama, 1968
Archival digital print, 72 x 28 1/2 in
Courtesy the artist

Geodesic-based dome architecture was a persistent element of the counterculture landscape in the West. Over 2,000 rural communes were formed in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, and the iconic Drop City, near Trinidad, Colorado, was the first of them to use domes.

Life Theater: The Cockettes & The Angels of Light

Hibiscus (George Harris III)
Scrapbook (detail), 1966-68
Mixed media scrapbook, 8 x 10 in (closed)
Private collection

Part commune, part theater troupe, the Cockettes performed lavish stage acts regularly in the late 1960s and early 1970s at San Francisco’s Palace Theatre to a large, cult following. Maintaining little distinction between art and life, gay and straight, or male and female, they wore their exuberant, handmade outfits in both everyday life and on stage.

Citydance and Prayer for the Great Family, 1974

Anna Halprin's Citydance 1977 traversed the city of San Francisco. You can see the journey it took in the map below.

The day was bookended with a recitation of Gary Snyder’s poem Prayer for the Great Family. The poem was performed by the poet Kush first thing in the morning as the sun rose, and again in the late afternoon as the day’s festivities drew to a close.

Snyder’s Turtle Island, which Prayer for the Great Family comes from, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1975.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Social Encounters: The Dance of Anna Halprin

Charlene Koonce
Citydance, 1976
Archival photograph, 9 1/16 x 6 3/8 in
Courtesy Anna Halprin

One of the most influential choreographers of experimental dance of the American counterculture, Anna Halprin developed a practice that aimed at personal and social change as much as innovation in the field of dance. She founded the San Francisco Dancers’ Workshop in 1955 and advanced her groundbreaking work in the mid-1960s and 1970s with multi-sensory workshops that transcended the traditional rules of dance and encouraged participants to develop through movement a heightened awareness of themselves, each other, and their environment. From her famous outdoor dance studio at her home in Marin County, where she continues to work today, she teaches both trained and untrained dancers with a process aimed at both art and life. Her students have included many of the leading avant-garde dancers in New York and elsewhere.