Filmmaker, photographer plans presentation on '60s
FARMINGTON — The 1960s may have ended almost 50 years ago, but the legacy of that turbulent decade continues to have a major impact on the political, social and cultural fabric of America.
Because of her experiences, Santa Fe author, photographer and documentary filmmaker Lisa Law is better positioned than most people to talk about the significance of that decade. She'll be doing so in a presentation this weekend at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park that is being held in conjunction with the museum's "Technicolor Dreaming: Psychedelic Posters from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame" exhibition that remains on display through March 25.
"A lot of us, when we give presentations on a subject, we have an expertise on the things we talk about because we've studied it through (historic materials)," said Museum Curator Jeffrey Richardson. "Lisa's the exception. She lived it, and that's what she's going to talk about."
Law didn't just experience the upheaval of that famous decade as a journalist. She was right in the thick of things as an active participant, Richardson said.
"She wasn't there on assignment, she was there living and breathing it," he said. "So she brings a unique perspective on the topic of the 1960s — what it meant to be there and what it meant historically, and I think people will really enjoy it."
Law is perhaps best known for her photography that documented the musicians and crowd members at Woodstock, where she was part of a crew that helped feed the hundreds of thousands of people who convened at a farm in sleepy upstate New York in the summer of 1970 for a three-day festival. That event almost instantly passed into mythical status and became one of the defining happenings of the decade.
Richardson said he has consumed a great deal of written and visual material on the 1960s, and he considers Law's work to be among the more important contributions. The late actor and director Dennis Hopper apparently agreed, once describing Law's documentary "Flashing on the Sixties" that will be screened during her appearance here "the most compelling, moving documentary of the Sixties."
"I don't think you can get a better endorsement than that," Richardson said.
Law's presentation will cover one aspect of the decade that even those who lived through it may not be familiar with, he said.
"I don't think most people, even those who were alive then, realized there was a great migration to communes in the West, including some around Santa Fe," Richardson said. "There was a great migration of individuals who made their way into New Mexico and established communes. I think that's something most people don't necessarily think of when they think of the '60s."
Law was a participant in that movement, as well, Richardson said.
"That's another unique connection she's going to be able to make," he said. "That's something that, for the casual viewer of the 1960s, may be unexpected."
The curator said he had no initial plans to bring Law in to speak when the booked the "Technicolor Dreaming" show at the museum, as he only discovered her work later. But he realized immediately her presentation would be the perfect companion piece to the posters exhibition, which focuses largely on bands and musical events from the '60s.
"She's the ideal person to talk about the subject," he said. "I don't think we could have found a better guest."
Richardson said "Technicolor Dreaming" has been well received, which isn't surprising, given the fact that the '60s remain a source of endless fascination for many Americans.
"The response has been very positive," he said. "A lot of people were glad to see this particular show come here and are excited about the connection between the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the museum."
With the country seemingly in the midst of another period of great social upheaval now, Richardson believes the timing of the exhibition and Law's appearance couldn't be better.
"I think the 1960s is a topic that continues to resonate, and every day we have a direct connection to that time," he said.
As opposed to the archival material covering the 1960s that most people are familiar with, Law's film, photos and recollections have a more personal sensibility. But Richardson said she also has a gift for making sense of that chaotic time in American life — and, perhaps, this one, as well.
"I'm expecting a combination of the intimacy she was able to capture and looking back on it from a great distance," he said. "She's been able to see it and feel it but also view from a great perspective. I think she's going to be able to connect the past and the present to the future."
Mike Easterling is the A&E editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.
If you go
What: Lisa Law presentation, book signing and documentary screening
When: 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18
Where: The Farmington Museum at Gateway Park, 3041 E. Main St.
For more information: Call 505-599-1174 or visit fmtn.org/FarmingtonMuseum