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When Hippies were in flower

by Clark Dimond
HUERFANO- Across the Great Divide is a coffee-table book of color and black and white photographs chronicling the creation of the artist’s colony and social experiment at Libre and the rise of the counterculture movement in the Upper Huerfano Valley. From the more than 3000 photographs housed at the Bernecke Library at Yale, Roberta Price, author of Huerfano: A Memoir of Life in the Counterculture has selected and annotated these well-composed studies, creating a family album of the remarkable seven years from 1969 to 1977 that demonstrates the establishment and progress of a vital countercultural and communal presence in the Upper Huerfano Valley.
The immigrants came to the Valley from New York City, Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Oakland and Chicago. Peace marchers, musicians and Civil Rights activists were communally breaking from convention, pooling rent resources and putting an effort into designing and building a back-to-the-land lifestyle inspired by the architectural ideas of Buckminster Fuller, adapting indigenous building techniques. Counseled by veterans of New Mexico communes, the refugees relocated from overpopulated streets and urban unrest to the Gardner, Redwing, and Farisita area. Predominantly aged between 20 and 30 in the 1970’s, the immigrants would include among their number a few historians and journalists, a future film critic, a Hugo Award winning novelist, some world-class artists and sculptors creating unique habitats in this obscure valley lying beyond the deserted company towns between Badito and Walsenburg.
The book doesn’t attempt to capture an overview of the long haul, the assimilation of the hippies into the existing culture, as the children of the communes continued to work to improve education, health, and emergency services. The photographs in Across the Great Divide encapsulate the illusion of timelessness, a series of vignettes, portraits, moments in a time span during which the optimism and enthusiasm ran strong.
Roberta is both familiar and comfortable with the lifestyles of her subjects. She’s at ease in a familiar room, accepted as a functioning part of a productive scene. Her subjects are both conscious of the camera and cooperative with the photographer. This has allowed her to record day-to-day life; an advantage not often accorded a journalist. Across the Great Divide invites the viewer to visit that now remote time when the first generation of the rural counterculture (still referred to locally, collectively, and generically as “hippies”) was young and strong and preparing to raise children in a new and developing society.
Across the Great Divide: a photo chronicle of the counterculture by Roberta M. Price, published by University of New Mexico Press is available locally from Ken Martinez at the Darkwood Gallery in Walsenburg. A video selection of pictures may be viewed via these links on You Tube:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wapb5o94nCs
www.youtube.com/watch?v=n42EfYXPIOw
Autographed copies of Price’s first book, Huerfano: A Memoir of Life in the Counterculture is also available at Darkwood Gallery.