Photographer Lisa Law didn't just take pictures of the young Bob Dylan. She was also his cook and masseuse, and she hung out with him in L.A. when he roomed in the "Castle" where she then also lived. Her personal involvement with the artists she shot is the real legacy of her life's work; Denver will have the opportunity to peek into Lisa's world, a place peopled with icons of the Sixties and beyond, when the small yet intensive exhibit Lisa Law: Flashing on the Sixties opens tonight at the Byers-Evans House Gallery. Not only is the show a vivid history lesson of another time and place, but it also acts as a distant satellite companion to the current West of Center: Art and the Counterculture Experiment in America, 1965-1977 exhibition at MCA Denver.
Law will be in town for the opening reception, which includes an artist talk and book signing, but she shared a few insights with us ahead of time. A preview follows; Flashing on the Sixties continues through the end of February.
"Dennis Hopper with his gun, SF, NM, 2009." See above.
Law knew Dennis Hopper throughout his career, and she posed for us next to one of the last photos she ever took of him, in her house in New Mexico. The gun, which is part of the exhibit, is the same one he held in the photo. It was used on the cover of THE Magazine in Santa Fe. "We were worried about whether or not it was appropriate to use a photo of him holding the gun," Law recalls. "So we called his estranged wife, Victoria, for advice. She said, 'That's Dennis! Of course you should use it,' so we did." "The Beatles, Cow Palace, SF, 1966."
It was through Frank Werber, manager of the Kingston Trio, that Law was able to attend the Beatles concert at the Cow Palace in San Francisco with a backstage pass. "Looking at this still gives me chills," she says, noting that even though she was stationed right below the stage, she couldn't hear a thing. "The audience was full of young girls, and as soon as the Beatles started to play, they started screaming, and they didn't stop. At the second show, the police had to put up cyclone fencing to keep them from storming the stage. There were girls fainting all over the place."
"Bob Dylan, The Castle Solarium, Los Angeles, CA, 1966."
Here's an excerpt on Dylan's stay at the Castle from Law's book, Flashing on the Sixties:
When Dylan was home, he could be heard typing his lyrics long into the night. Chocolate milk shakes seemed to be his main staple, Earth Mother that I am, and a true believer in the need for a balanced diet, I would insist that he come down for meals. I especially liked to feed him steak, kasha, peas and salad.
Occasionally, after a long writing session, I would massage his neck and back. This relaxed and sometimes annoyed him because it sent him to sleep and interfered with his working. Though he didn't stop me from photographing him, I was never comfortable doing it. He had a stare that intimidated me and took my breath away.
"When I took this series of photos, we were just sitting around talking," she adds. "This is the first one I ever sold, and at first, I didn't even realize what I had. A picture this iconic is what defines me as a photographer." "Otis Redding, the Whiskey A Go-Go, Hollywood, CA, 1966."
Again, from Flashing on the Sixties:
While Dylan was living at the Castle, Otis was a headliner at the Whiskey A Go-go on the Sunset Strip. This was two years before he blew everyone's mind at the Monterey Pop Festival. Dylan, Tom and I went to hear him. Otis was backed by a big band that had lots of horn players. They danced in unison behind him as he jumped around the stage. I stood right in front of the platform, mesmerized by this man's soul and power. He blew my mind.
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The photos were later used by Atlantic Records.
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