Woodstock summons up a gazillion images, mostly muddy, capturing a monumental moment in time that still echoes with the great music of the 1960s. Movies have been made, books have been written. But something is missing from those stories, and I should know because that missing piece is the reason I went to Woodstock. I went because I thought it was an art show.
The ad in the Village Voice in the early summer of 1969 was a siren call to me: “Woodstock Music and Art Fair – an Aquarian Exposition in Wallkill, N.Y.”
The brochure that came in the mail along with my ticket spelled it out – “Paintings and sculptures on trees, on grass, surrounded by the Hudson Valley.” It informed me, in lovely violet letters, that “Accomplished artists, ‘Ghetto’ artists and would-be artists will be glad to discuss their work.” There would be a craft bazaar of “imaginative leather, Zodiac charts, camp clothes and worn out shoes,” guitar and ceramic workshops and “curious food and fruit combinations to experiment with.” Plus, there would be “hundreds of acres to roam on. Fly a kite, sun yourself. Cook your own food. Water and rest rooms will be supplied.”
I had just graduated from Ivy School of Art in Pittsburgh, turned 21 in July, sold a painting at Three Rivers Festival, had money in my pocket and was ready for that show! The music sounded pretty darned good, too – Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, the Who, Crosby Stills and Nash, Jimi Hendrix and bunches more – music my friends and I had been listening to for months now, cranked up on late-night stereos, echoing through the walls of dorm rooms and apartments all over Oakland and Shadyside. The ticket for the weekend of August 15-17 I received in the mail cost $18; as an exhibitor I was charged an extra $2 for a pass that would take my art to the staging area to be unloaded and hung. People I knew were…