Artists Unite For Peace & The Environment

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STAN_NATCHZ_NEW

Stan Natchez

I WILL FIGHT NO MORE FOREVER, declares the coda on Stan Natchez’s mural (picturedabove), created specifically for the Artists For Peace and the Environment collection that debuted in an art tent, saved from the fires of Sunday night by a quick thinking curator (and her son—“Get out, Mom”) who took a break in the action on Sunday morning to pack up the hundred murals and hundreds of framed photographs that were

viewed by tens of thousands of attendees at an over-heated de-commissioned Air Force base in Rome, New York where Woodstock ’99 took place.

Saved,alsoperhaps,bythecreativity of more than one hundred artists and photographers who donated their time and talent and whose positive vibrations were more than a match for those Jump- in’ Jack Flash wannabees. There were more than a few heroic stories of artists

defending their work, defending the tent and keeping the peace before the great escape (thank you Jeffrey Glenn Reese).

On the following pages are many of the images created expressly for this exhibition, Artists for Peace and the Environment, curated and conceived by Jamie Ellin Forbes. A book featuring the entire collection of art and photography is planned. We’ll keep you posted in Fine Art Magazine and fineartmagazine.com.

One hundred years after the Hudson River School of painters stirred nature enthusiasts to conserve natural resources, Woodstock ’99 continued this tradition with works of art donated by artists, musicians and celebrities, representing the interconnectedness of humanity and the environment.”

—KEVIN MADONNA


By PAUL BOSCHI


When the estimated 250,000 attendees to Woodstock ’99 arrived at Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, New York, they were immediately greeted by a 4-mile long continuous art mural, created mostly be some 30 artists and hundreds of volunteers, many drawn from the local community. Once inside, a quiet tent situated between two daunting venue stages, featured art worthy of trendy Soho Galleries New York or art museums. Sadly, by the concerts’ end, barely one percent of the wall remained intact, splintered into souvenirs by “bored” youths, and the art show was long tucked safely away in the Long Island headquarters of Fine Art magazine. The attempt to provide an atmosphere of togetherness and harmony through visual art was not necessarily a complete failure, but was overshadowed by the unexplained angst and violence radiated by many of the attendees.

The marriage of rock and roll and art is no novel idea. From Warhol’s associations with The Velvet Underground, to rock icon David Bowie metamorphosing into art critic, the two have always enjoyed a common ground. Even veteran rockers like Graham Nash and Carlos Santana have never been shy about dis- playing their favorite works of art.

The previous Woodstock concerts also featured art, a well-known interest by organizer and producer Michael Lang. Woodstock ’99 was to be no exception. Lang, who produced the first Woodstock concert and was one of the producers of Woodstock ‘99, said “Art was always a focus of the Woodstock shows. Not as much as we wanted in ’69 but more so in ’94 and a lot more so in 99.”

Jamie Ellin Forbes, curator of the art show explained “We at Fine Art have known Michael for years. He has a well-developed eye and strong art views. I had long been of the opinion that his Wood- stock movement was a watershed experience in our overall cultural experience.” Unfortunately, many of the concertgoers opted to the pro-illiteracy suburban chic of bands like Limp Bizkit, whose lead singer, Fred Durst recently bragged to England’s Q Magazine “I’ve never read a book in my life.” This unhealthy outlook was one of many contributing factors to the violence, which marred the Wood- stock ’99 experience for many.

However, if any positive image is to remain from the critically bashed concert, it should be the various activities by the Special Projects Art Crew. Led by charismatic Mel Lawrence, a veteran of all three Woodstock concerts, the S.P.A.C. crew under the direction of Jamie Forbes, assembled and produced the Woodstock Art Show. The show featured both new works, shown exclusively for the first time at the event and a retrospective of art from the 1994 show, which took place in Saugerties, New York. Curator Forbes commented “ Mel told me right away with crowds like this one, there were bound to be problems. This brought many challenges. We had to develop some sort of easy hanging devices, to get the artwork up quickly and easily, as we had little help. “

The show however needed a theme, some sort of cohesion to bring such varied artists together. Jamie contacted John Hoving and Bobby Kennedy Jr.’s Alliance of Water Keepers were brought in as beneficiaries of the show. Proceeds will be raised via an auction to benefit the organization. Mel Lawrence explained “This came about when myself, Michael, and Jamie met Bobby Kennedy Jr., John Hoving and Kevin Madonna at the Riverkeeper SHAD picnic where the actress/artist Lorraine Bracco expressed an interest in offering her support.”

Kevin Madonna, executive director of the Water Keeper Alliance said, “We are proud to have been part of the Artists for Peace and the Environment exhibit at Woodstock ’99. One hundred years after the Hudson River School of painters stirred nature enthusiasts to conserve natural resources, Woodstock ’99 continued this tradition with works of art donated by artists, musicians and celebrities, representing the interconnectedness of humanity and the environment.”

Once the theme of Artists for Peace and the Environment was in place, it came to contacting artists to donate their works for auction. In addition to the exclusive donations, highlights from the photo exhibit, “Get Back” were confirmed to be displayed. “Get Back” featured black and white photography by ground-breakers such as Lisa Law, Henry Diltz and Elliot Landy. The photography show featured rare shots of the likes of Zappa, Dylan, Janis Joplin and Santana.

Rounding out the theme of Artists for Peace and the Environment was a display of art created exclusively by the local community with messages of peace and encouragement to the victims of the Kosovo Crisis, which would benefit the American Red Cross’s efforts to bring relief to the war-torn area. The response from the local community was fantastic. It gave local residents of all ages a chance to participate in the 30-year anniversary of the Woodstock generation’s birth. The

S.P.A.C. crew took their 60’s themed psychedelic art van to various locales in the Rome area and encouraged the community to create messages of peace. These events not only drew attention to the Red Cross’s efforts in Kosovo, but also gave the local residents of Rome, NY a chance to actively participate in the milestone concert event—the 30th anniversary of the Woodstock concert.

Work began in early April on the art show. Artists were encouraging in their responses—very few, if any, said no.

The art show itself was a brilliant collection featuring a diverse group of work from nearly 100 artists. “In ’94 there had been an orientation towards new wave pop,” said Forbes. “For this show, we wanted to find a wider variety of artists who would not only be suitable, but who would create and donate in the short period we had.”

The weeks before the actual event saw a hodge podge of construction workers, planners, artists, curators and volunteers scramble together to set up the 4-mile long mural and the art show which was housed under a 60 foot long carnival tent. Outside the tent, an “art-park” was erected. This art park featured panels, which were used at the ’94 event. Jeanne Davis and Judith Wilkenson were crucial S.P.A.C. members who worked through the night to erect and also document the show, along with Forbes.

The most challenging part of the show was the timing of getting everything to the site and up for display, the physical limitations of space and security were elements, which confronted the S.P.A.C. crew. Banding together with Forbes and her helpers, the show got set up on time (although everyone was too exhausted to open the Champagne Forbes brought along to celebrate).

Peter Max (below, with Sean Combs and Gene Luntz). Crowd shot shows Max’s stage mural

Peter Max (below, with Sean Combs and Gene Luntz). Crowd shot shows Max’s stage mural

peter-max-puff-daddy“The fact that all the artists agreed to donate their work was rewarding ”said Forbes. “It was like Christmas, unwrapping all the pieces from artists like Wavy Gravy, Bob Wade, Tico Torres and so many others.”

Kevin Madonna looked back on the event and said, “We are fortunate to be associated with a group of individuals whose feelings for the environment have not changed from the original painters of the Hudson River School of paintings.” Madonna went on to explain, “Throughout all their battles, the Keepers all share one underlying philosophy which is that our rivers, bays and sounds enrich our lives in ways words cannot articulate. A medium that does speak on behalf of our movement is art.”

Lang reflected, “If I could change anything, I think I would have turned the wall to face the inside, so people could enjoy it once inside the venue.” This may have deterred the youths from trashing the wall in an attempt to “entertain” themselves.

Artists For Peace and the Environment organizer and curator Jamie Ellin Forbes with Mel Lawrence, logistics coordinator for the original Woodstock Music and Arts Festival in 1969 as well as for Woodstock ’99

Artists For Peace and the Environment organizer and curator Jamie Ellin Forbes with Mel Lawrence, logistics coordinator for the original Woodstock Music and Arts
Festival in 1969 as well as for Woodstock ’99

By the events end, the media and many others who may or may not have been present at the event drew their own conclusions to the outcome of Woodstock ’99. However, for those who either participated, donated or benefitted from the art show at Woodstock, the tragedies and conflicts which occurred could not take away the feeling of community.  The feeling of accomplishment and joy, which those the art show touched overrides any of the negativity associated. While action must be taken to ensure perpetrators answer for their actions, and that we learn from this so it does not happen again, the art project provides a model for what the Woodstock generation would want to be remembered for—peace and harmony—with each other and the environment.

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