For many Americans, there’s something remarkably nostalgic about the 1960s. Rock and roll was one of the cornerstones of the time, and when images of the most famous faces of the day-captured by one of the most famous photographers and rock wives ever-are on exhibit, it’s nearly impossible to resist a glimpse of pop culture history.
Through November 30, Lakeview Museum is hosting "Linda McCartney’s Sixties: Portraits of an Era," including approximately 50 photographs of the icons of the 1960s rock scene: the Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, Mamas and Papas, and, of course, the Beatles. "It takes those of us who were alive during the 1960s-and remember it-back to the days of bell bottoms, protests, long hair, and the very best rock and roll," said Lakeview President and CEO Jim Richerson.
Richerson said Lakeview added some extra touches to the exhibition with some authentic 1960s memorabilia. "You can see a real 1960s living room-complete with chairs, tables, lamp, and clock-in our lobby. We also have toys, including Barbie and friends, GI Joe, Matchbox cars, and even a real Beatles game. And bring your camera to photograph yourself walking across our own Abbey Road. We’ve painted the famous white lines in front of the museum."
The fact that these photos exist at all is the result of the fascinating story of how McCartney began her photography career, Richerson said. "Born in 1941 in Scarsdale, N.Y., Linda Louise Eastman was the daughter of Lee, a prominent entertainment attorney, and Louise Eastman, the daughter of a rich Cleveland family who owned major department stores. In 1966, she was working as a receptionist at Town and Country, a glossy society magazine in New York. In the mail came an invitation to a press reception for the Rolling Stones on board the luxury yacht SS Sea Panther. She hid the invitation, knowing no one on the magazine would want to go. Armed with a camera and photography knowledge limited to one class with a friend, she joined the mob of reporters and photographers. The reporters were asked to board and photographers told to stay dockside. However, Linda got on board and was the only photographer to take pictures of the Stones. Her photos got her noticed, and her career was born."
McCartney said "being there" was the coincidence that launched her career, but the world continued to take notice because of an innate gift she possessed. "Her extraordinary talent to capture the heart and soul of her subjects catapulted her into the realm of the great photographers of the 20th century," Richerson said. "Her work wasn’t confined to the famous. Her landscapes, still-lifes, and portraits of everyday people earned her the distinction of becoming the 1987 Women in Photography ’U.S. Photo-grapher of the Year.’ She exhibited at the Royal Photographic Society in Bath, England, at New York’s prestigious International Center of Photography, and in museums and art galleries around the world. Linda’s career span-ned more than three decades; this exhibition happens to concentrate on the 1960s."
Lakeview Museum has the honor of hosting the first museum show of her work in the U.S. since her death in 1998. Richerson said they secured the exhibit, as they must with all of their shows, several years in advance of the show dates. "Lakeview Museum is constantly searching for the very best exhibitions. I first saw the show at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and knew it would have broad appeal. An exhibition at Lakeview in 1995, ’It’s Only Rock and Roll,’ featured artworks inspired by rock and roll music. It brought in thousands of visitors-from the very young who’ve only seen old videos of the 1960s to senior citizens who spent most of the decade shaking their head in amazement at the goings on. McCartney’s photographs show the human side of some people we’ve come to view as larger than life."
Richerson said visitors who’ve viewed the exhibition so far have had very interesting reactions. "It’s fascinating watching parents and grandparents who lived through the 1960s showing the photographs to their children and grandchildren. Everyone has a story of a favorite concert, treasured autograph, or record. Every school tour brings students who readily recognize the rock stars. They enjoy laughing at the clothes and hair-not realizing future generations will be laughing just as hard at their own garb and hairstyles. At a recent Senior Morning, the seniors swapped tales of how their own children battled trips to the barbershop and adopted the hippie style to the consternation of their parents."
He said much of our enduring images of the 1960s icons come from album covers and magazines, so these "real" photos may take some people by surprise. "Despite the air of casual abandon found in most of the album covers and magazine photos, they were carefully posed to impart just the right air of boredom, as if they were above the mere mortals who bought their records and attended their concerts. Linda’s photos are spontaneous and unposed, bringing out the human side. She was a master at lightening up the moment by asking her subjects to let go and be themselves. Witness the petite senior citizen, wearing a purple housecoat and slippers, standing with crossed arms as she watches the Beatles get ready for the famous Abbey Road album cover. Experience the Mamas and the Papas lounging in a hotel room as they wait for the next concert. Observe Aretha Franklin in her dressing room as she complains about the trouble she’s having with her husband. They show that rock stardom isn’t all fun and games."
While some visitors may view the McCartney exhibition as a detour from the museum’s usual fare, the previous rock and roll exhibition, as well as the current display, are good examples of how Lakeview constantly works to incorporate all aspects of its mission. "Actually, this exhibition fits nicely with our mission of arts, sciences, history, and technology. Fine photography is certainly art. It also fits into the ’science’ category, showing the science of photo making and its history," he said.
Richerson said Lakeview Museum chooses its exhibitions based on how they fit the mission and whether they’ll appeal to some segment of the population. "Few exhibitions will appeal to absolutely everyone. Instead, we try to vary our subject matter through the years, so you’ll find something interesting. But best of all, we get to introduce new subjects and artworks. If you come to all of our exhibitions, you may be amazed at how fascinating you’ll find them, even if you had no interest before. We have an extraordinary exhibition from the Smithsonian American Art Museum coming next fall. ’The Land Through the Lens’ includes vintage photographs by the pioneers of early and modern photography. They trace America’s fascination with untouched wilderness, pastoral views, exotic geological formations, Indian territories, farmlands and prairies, national parks, and commemorative sites of wars and battles."
All of these different experiences add up to the best job in the world, Richerson said. "Not only do we get to experience the very best art and science up close, but we also learn something new every day. This exhibition, especially, has brought back the good old days of the 1960s. We get to watch reactions of people as they look at the dolls and toys. If we had a dollar for every time someone has said, ’I had one of those,’ we’d be a rich museum."
Even with the best job, challenges arise-but even the challenges are interesting and unique. "It’s been a great joy to host this exhibition. One aspect had us stumped for a little while, though. Because Linda was a strict vegetarian and animal rights activist, we were obliged to serve only vegetarian food at our Member’s Opening. With a little research and work, our crack committee came up with an innovative menu, and the opening was a smash."
The public can honor McCartney’s life and work-and soak up the 1960s-by visiting "Por-trait of an Era" through November 30. AA!