the summer of l♥ve experience...

This is the 50th anniversary of the true beginnings of the 'hippie movement'. Wanting to learn more, we spent several hours at the de Young Museum's The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll. So groovy! And there is no way I can fully explain this experience. It really must be seen to fully grasp this era in our country. Wow.

This description was perfect:
an exhilarating exhibition of iconic rock posters, photographs, interactive music and light shows, costumes and textiles, ephemera, and avant-garde films. A 50th anniversary celebration of the adventurous and colorful counterculture that blossomed in the years surrounding the legendary San Francisco summer of 1967, the exhibition will present more than 300  significant cultural artifacts of the time.
In the mid-1960s, artists, activists, writers, and musicians converged on Haight-Ashbury with hopes of creating a new social paradigm. By 1967, the neighborhood would attract as many as 100,000 young people from all over the nation. The neighborhood became ground zero for their activities, and nearby Golden Gate Park their playground (which is where the de Young Museum is located).
While I was only 5 at the time, I think, if older, I would have found myself frolicking in the park with the masses, too.
The period is marked by groundbreaking developments in art, fashion, music, and politics. Local bands such as Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead (pictured) were the progenitors of what would become known as the “San Francisco Sound,” music that found its visual counterpart in creative industries that sprang up throughout the region. The de Young's task was to share all of these components in historical and artistic ways. I feel they accomplished their goals.
One exhibit was immersion into one of Bill Ham's famous Liquid Light Show, complete with coupling in bean bag chairs! These light shows at rock concerts were not only psychedelic but were an integral part of the entire experience. It was very cool to get a glimpse into what it was like.
A huge part of this transformative era was the poster art. Described at the time, by Herbert Gold, in The Saturday Evening Post, as "Freaky, funny, fashionable, these are the signs of our times." Described as "vibrating beacons of San Francisco's counterculture movement", the exhibit not only showcased dozens of these works but also had a video showing how they were created, which I found very interesting.
The experience was more than Timothy Leary telling everyone to "Turn on, tune in, drop out." Allen Ginsberg said it involved, "an alteration of consciousness towards some kind of greater awareness and greater individuality." At the same time that all the free love was happening, there was always a great deal of anti-Vietnam protesting. Sometimes, the two combined, as with this poster of Joan Baez and her sisters. This totally made me laugh out loud.

Distinctive codes of dress also set members of the Bay Area counterculture apart from mainstream America. Local designers began to create fantastic looks using a range of techniques and materials, including leatherwork, hand-painting, knitting and crotchet, embroidery, repurposed denim, and tie-dye. I was really excited for this part of the exhibit.

How cool is this knitted wedding dress by Birgitta Bjerke, aka 100% Birgitta?
And her Hands dress? It was considered a statement about the sexuality of the era.
I so appreciated these boots by Vegan artist  Mickey McGowan, aka the Apple Cobbler.
But with all the fun & free aspects of the Summer of 1967, it wasn't all love. It was so crazy, that new arrivals were offered "survival school," a seminiar teaching them how to get decent nutrition, how to find a clean place to stay, how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases and not have bad stuff happen to them. This was a scary list of "what could happen".
To me, the most disturbing image was this one by Larry Keenan called RUNAWAYS / WHITE FLIGHT. He stated, "As part of my assignment for the Washington Post, I had to visit the Park Police Station next to Golden Gate Park. The runaways were a major problem for San Francisco. My job was to shoot the runaway board. This one shown here was one of several boards there. To me, the problem looked manageable until the police showed me the many drawers full of thousands of photos from all over the world. All these straight-looking middle class white kids ran away to be hippies." What hit me was these were someone's children. I can't even imagine.
So why did the Summer of Love happen? This "turmoil of young people" was, in part, due to sheer numbers. Never before had so many Americans been under 25. Isn't that interesting?
Through artifacts of the time we were shown a slice of life that seems almost surreal. Through this experience, were given a glimpse into a summer that left lasting changes... it catalyzed a set of ideas that would eventually lead to new norms (natural food, concerns for the environment, sexual liberation, challenges to the nuclear family). It made history. And we got a very groovy history lesson today! I ♥ the Summer of Love Experience.

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Cyndy Brown said...

I lived on Haight St. a block from Ashbury. The thing I remember then was that many of the young people didn't like violence like they do now...wish they could take a lesson.

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