Home Visual Arts 40th anniversary of Woodstock at the Morrison Hotel Art Gallery.

40th anniversary of Woodstock at the Morrison Hotel Art Gallery.

Photo by Mark Reay.

The revolution has been commoditized. Luckily, for those of us who could not have afforded the time to be born into a generation who actually achieved their dreams, it is now on sale.

The Morrison Hotel Art Gallery’s 40th Anniversary of Woodstock hosted a showing of works by Henry Diltz and Michael Lang, Woodstock’s main photographers and event producer, respectively. Apparently, the revolution had a very sophisticated sense of press organization. But, there is no sarcasm, no sell-out in those words. Whether the organizers were aware at the time and documenting for the purposes of tonight’s exhibit or if they were simply caught up in the movement itself, participating through the lens, their main and most powerful artery for communication, they were witness to glory.

Balance of Photo credits go to Seth Wolfson.

The pictures, and complimentary movie, were at once grand and intimate. They were honest portrayals of both the magnitude and scope of the greatest show ever as well as diary like entries into the mundane elements of everyday living that turned the spectacle into a personal triumph. In an instant, there is a line of destruction and creation, buzzing with meaning, drawn between the image of Jimi Hendrix wasting his guitar in front of a million, faceless masses in one shot and the 3 year old girl picking her way through a temporary camp created by her father and his community of revolutionaries.

Whether or not the young girl was in attendance at tonight’s event is meaningless. Perhaps she was the shy teenager standing on the side, looking earnestly at each piece, ignoring the tumult around her. Maybe she was one of the older, model-esque figures who now traipse through downtown Manhattan aware that the pomp will never be worthy of her circumstance. Or, maybe she is absent. She can be buying high and selling low, a business maven, a cold-hearted capitalist bitch who would rather die than see that outdated image. She might not even exist anymore, a figment in the imagination of a past now sold framed and professionally shipped.woodstock-at-the-morrison5




  1. The Woodstock Festival did not take place in Woodstock, New York but in the town of Bethel which is sixty-seven miles due west. The second day of that mythic, three-day concert coincided with my eleventh birthday (I am going to be fifty-one on Sunday. Yikes! Where did the time go?). I remember quite clearly my friend Tom Finkle and I riding our bikes up to the bridge on South Street that overlooks Route 17 – a four lane highway which snakes its way into Sullivan County where the great event took place. It looked like a long and narrow parking lot. The New York State Thruway had been shut down. To the best of my knowledge, that had never happened before and has not happened since.

    To say that it was an exciting time to be alive almost sounds redundant. Less than four weeks earlier, two human beings had walked on the surface of the moon, a technological feat that will probably out shine every other event of the twentieth century in the history books that will be written a thousand years from now. As future decades unwind, it is a certainty that the photographic image of half a million kids, partying and dancing in the mud, will not continue to sustain the cultural significance that it does for us today. The years will pass by, the people who were lucky enough to be there will one day be no more, and the Woodstock Festival will be erased from living memory; a mere footnote to a very crowded century. But what a freaking party, baby!

    “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”

    Emma Goldman 1869-1940

    Dance with me, Emma!

    The last time I looked at my videocassette of Woodstock (which was well over a decade ago) I wondered about the fates of the half-a-million gathered on the fields of Max Yasgur’s farm in Sullivan County on that distant weekend. The passage of four decades decrees that a third or more of them have passed on. The average age of the attendees was about twenty-two. Today would find them approaching their mid-sixties; the age many of their grandparents were in 1969!

    Where I come from, Woodstock has a special meaning to people because it happened here – or close enough to count. From where I now sit, Bethel is a mere forty-two miles northwest. According to this morning’s local paper, seventy-five media outlets from all over the world will be covering the events commemorating the anniversary this weekend. That’s enough of a reason for me to stay the hell away. I’m not as crowd-friendly as I once was. Besides, I would have preferred to attend the real thing forty years ago. That would have been too cool for words!

    Nostalgia is a permanent human condition. Each generation is nostalgic for the last. It absolutely boggles the mind to think that the year 2049 will find those of us who survive looking back on these hideous times with tender longing. Given our silly human quirks, that will probably be the case. Still, it’s hard not to reflect on the hope that was prevalent in the summer of Woodstock. We want to believe that there is a magical future where, as John Lennon once imagined, there are no countries; nothing to kill or die for. Maybe we will one day arrive at that wondrous place.



    Tom Degan
    Goshen, NY

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