Woodstock Art Was "Carefree and Loose" -- But Where Is It?

Aug. 10, 2009

It was billed as the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, but it just didn't fly.

The art part, that is.

But the art that never took wing would be worth major "cha-ching" today -- if it could be authenticated, said sculptor Karl Umlauf, artist-in-residence and art professor at Baylor University in Waco.

With the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival days away, Umlauf reflected that the art played second fiddle, so to speak, to the music because it was "carefree and loose, for the purpose of having a good time -- nothing really serious."

The artists at the legendary festival on Aug. 15-17, 1969, "weren't trying to do anything more than just large posters, pseudo-musical graffiti of blasting notes and quick portraits of musicians," said Umlauf, whose work has been shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

"It wasn't nasty graffiti like you'd see on poles in New York and Chicago," he said.

The best-known festival art was Arnold Skolnick's promotional poster of a dove perched on a guitar, but even it got short shrift at the time. The festival was moved from Wallkill, N.Y., to Bethel, N.Y., and promoters hustled to print and distribute the posters in time. Seventy-five were hung on telephone poles; some were sold as $1 souvenirs; and the rest were never used, according to Bethel's Woodstock-Preservation Archives.

Posters being sold online are touted as originals, with asking prices of several thousand dollars. But art lovers fret over how to tell whether they're the real thing.

Woodstock brochures promised painting and sculpting amid the trees, with accomplished artists and would-be artists mingling "to discuss their work, or the unspoiled splendor of the surroundings, or anything that might be on your mind."

"If you had a piece of that art, even if it was made with tempera paint and felt-tip markers, it would be worth a lot -- not because of the quality of art, but because it was done at Woodstock," Umlauf said.

Contact:Terry Goodrich, Assistant Director of Media Communications, (254) 710-3321

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