The Simple Complex
Thursday, January 4, 2001
"This Land is Your Land: The Life and Legacy of Woody Guthrie," the Smithsonian Institution's traveling exhibit that opens next week at the National Steinbeck Center, may offer as intimate and honest a look at Guthrie as we're ever going to see. Organized under the watchful eye of Guthrie's daughter Nora, the 3,500 square-foot exhibit contains hundreds of photographs, letters and memorabilia, as well as paintings and drawings of--and by--the legendary folksinger.
According to the Steinbeck Center's Robin Venuti, the exhibit seemed like a natural for the center. "Woody and Steinbeck had a lot in common," says Venuti. "They both were using their art to effect change. When I called the Smithsonian, they thought it was such a great match, we negotiated a fee that made it possible. Nora was really excited and is coming here to give a talk."
Nora, who founded and runs the Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives, says the material in the show
reveals a more complicated man than the one we think we know. "I tried not to edit out the bad parts," she says. "There's a whole section on Huntington's disease. Up until 10 years ago, there was a ban on showing him with Huntington's. I wanted to make it very layered. And I understood that there are kids out there who have never heard of Woody Guthrie, so I knew that I had to make it very simplistic. But I also wanted to make a show that my brother [Arlo], Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger could go there and say, 'I didn't know that!'"
"This Land is Your Land" will be on exhibit from Jan. 13 through March 4 at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas. Complementing the exhibit will be talks by Nora Guthrie (Jan. 14) and Woody's manager, Harold Leventhal (Feb. 11). Also, a four-film mini-series looks at Woody's life and legacy: Bound for Glory (Feb. 18), Man in the Sand: The Making of Mermaid Avenue (Feb. 23), and Hard Travelin' and A Vision Shared (March 4). For more info, call 796-3833.