Tag Archive | Woodstock Music and Art Fair

One Red Push Pin: My poem about unsold works of art

Julie Lomoe, acrylic, 64"x64", 1969

Julie Lomoe, acrylic, 64"x64", 1969

This Sunday morning, August 16, marks the height of the Woodstock Festival 40th Anniversary frenzy. My three posts on my 1969 Woodstock experience have pulled in an enormous number of visitors, but I still haven’t tracked down any visual documentation for the paintings I showed there. Several of them still languish unseen in my basement – they’re far too large for any of the walls in my house.

 

I recently posted my poem about what becomes of unwanted books at a library sale. Today’s poem is about unwanted visual art. In a way, it’s the sister of the other poem. But for the visual artist, the question of what to do with old work is more problematic. Old books and unpublished manuscripts can be stored in a few banker’s boxes at the most, a computer jump drive at the least, so space isn’t a major problem. For works of visual art, it’s another matter entirely.

I wrote this poem after a visit to “The Great Municipal Side Show,” a members’ exhibition at the Albany Center Galleries in the fall of 2005.

 ONE RED PUSH PIN

 Ninety-nine art works unsold on the walls,

ninety-nine pieces of art.

If one more creation should happen to sell

there’ll be ninety-eight unwanted works on the walls.

 

One red push pin, one more day

until the show comes down.

This gallery marks the center of a circle,

its radius one hundred miles

in all directions.

Forty artists, one hundred works,

and only one red push pin. The tiny crimson dot

means someone craved the art

enough to sign a check and guarantee a home.

The rest remain bereft,

sad puppies left abandoned at the pound.

 

But maybe not. The gallery maven claims

two more are sold, so that makes three.

Perhaps they’re out of push pins.

 

Ninety-seven pieces of art on the wall.

Ninety-seven fragments

of starving artist soul still hang unclaimed,

or lie supine, or rise on pedestals

above the slate-gray floor of painted plywood,

so like the deck paint on my studio floor

in SoHo lo these many years ago.

So like my loft, so full of painted children,

born of inspiration, left to molder now

in a damp basement ninety miles north

of where the action was.

 

The paintings in the gallery call in plaintive voices.

Please buy me now!

I need a loving home!

My maker’s out of space!

They stare with liquid eyes

that follow me like Jesus as I pass,

my checkbook firmly zipped away,

its balance earmarked for necessities,

and art’s a luxury, or so I tell myself.

I swear I will not splurge.

 

My heart bleeds for the artists

who’ll cart their work back home

with no adoptive parents waiting in the wings.

To them, and yes, to me, art’s no mere luxury.

We thirst for it like water, but its power

is in the making, not the having.

When I crave more art, I’ll procreate my own,

and stash them with their siblings

in my dank, dark basement

where water rises from a spring-fed lake.

 

© Julie Lomoe, 2005

Potential buyers, please note: I took a bit of poetic license here. My paintings aren’t actually moldering in my basement; they’re carefully stored and in good condition, as are the cartons of jazz LPs from the 1950’s I keep vowing to sell on eBay one of these days.

Watch for more poems in future posts. And please stop back tomorrow, when I’ll pose some questions about hosting guests on our blogs.

Woodstock 1969: I was there with my paintings. Now if only I could prove it!

 

Julie Lomoe, acrylic, 64"x64", 1969

Julie Lomoe, acrylic, 64"x64", 1969

Yes, there was actually an art show!

Would you believe I won second prize in the art show at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in August, 1969? Would you believe that was the event’s official name, and that there was actually an art show? There was, and I was in it, but I have only my memories to prove it – along with an uncollected ticket I collaged into a painting I did after the event. This month, with all the hype surrounding the 40th anniversary of the festival, I’ve vowed to track down some film or photographic documentation of the art show that included my paintings. Several of them are stored in my basement garage, and I’d like to find them a home more worthy of their fabled history.

In June of 1969, I was living alone in a loft on Broome Street, in the lower Manhattan district that had only recently become known as SoHo, when I learned of the upcoming festival that would come to be called Woodstock. There was an article in the Village Voice, saying a number of terrific bands were already signed up. The organizers were planning an art show as well, and were accepting entries. I’d been painting up a storm for several years, ever since earning my MFA at Columbia University, and the event sounded like a great opportunity to exhibit my huge, vividly colored paintings with their images of rock stars and social protest. I registered immediately, then teamed up with an artist I’d exhibited with in an East Village gallery who had a van big enough to hold my work.

By the time we got to Woodstock . . .

Flash forward to Friday, August 15. With help from his wife, we jammed the van full of our paintings and got an early morning start. Within a few miles of the festival site in Bethel, traffic slowed to a crawl, but it was still moving. Despite my avant garde life style, I still had a cautious streak, and I’d had the foresight to book a nearby motel room using my parents’ American Express card. We dropped off my clothes, then continued at a snail’s pace to the site. Since we were exhibitors, they waved our van through, then assigned us our spaces atop a gently rolling hill that was an easy walk from the stage. Each artist’s area was partitioned off by white canvas that billowed in the breeze.

By late afternoon I had my paintings up and wired to the metal framework to keep them from sailing away on a sudden gust of wind. There were few prospective customers, so as Richie Havens took the stage for the first set of the festival, I wandered downhill with my blanket and staked out a spot a couple of hundred feet from the stage. The crowd was building steadily, but navigating between the tarps and blankets was still easy, so after Swami Satchidananda’s invocation, I went back to check on my paintings.

My toughest teacher flies in to pass judgment

Judging of the art show was in progress, and to my amazement, I found myself suddenly face to face with Stephen Greene, my drawing instructor from the Columbia MFA program. As a teacher, he’d been my nemesis – he didn’t like my work, and gave me only B’s. Like the rest of the faculty, he was an abstract painter, but the others were more benign. Since I was stubbornly figurative, and my graduate exhibit consisted primarily of life-size paintings of the Beatles, they didn’t know what to do with me. To this day I’m convinced they awarded me the MFA simply to get rid of me. The only artistic advice I remember from that year was Robert Motherwell’s: “It helps to have a drink before you go into the studio.”

Now here was Stephen Greene, standing atop the hill in front of my paintings. They’d flown him and the other judges in by helicopter, he said. Nattily attired in a shirt, tie, and camel’s hair blazer that was far too warm for the day, he looked as if he belonged on Madison Avenue, not this rolling farmland with its thousands of hippies. “What the fuck am I doing here?” he said with a shake of his head.

 (to be continued)