— Nudism had a long history among small groups in Northern Europe and America, but in the 1960s with the huge population of beautiful young bodies in California it became a mass movement. It was wartime in America again, and it was thought that if people got rid of the feeling of armament that clothes gave them they would be more peaceful. Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky had just returned from India where they had been mingling with Naga Saddhus, naked yogis, and were firm believers in peace through nakedness. It was 1964. I had recently been in California and been fascinated with all the magazines depicting ordinary people in ordinary surroundings without clothes and saw this as a possible way to move figure painting out of its academic past to a bright new level. So I began taking these photos of my friends, their wives and children, many of poets and painters I knew. The exhibition of these paintings in New York in February 1965 caused a furious response from the establishment, even two years later they were still complaining about nakedness. This letter to Allen was to suggest that our response should be taken to whole new level by making posters of these photographs which, because of Allen’s increasing social visibility, would increase the pressure for American’s to relax. Two years later this whole idea culminated in the Woodstock festival where thousands of young people frolicked and made love in the surrounding forest and incited the violent response which followed from the new conservative president, Richard Nixon.
Transcript of the letter:
Dear Allen, no doubt you have seen the issue of LIFE magazine in which I am referred to as “one Wynn Chamberlain” and you as “one of the most unpalatable models of all time.” While I’m still not doing the nudes, nevertheless, the whole thing made me mad. I’m wondering what you would think of having a large poster made from the original Poloroid I took of you holding Peter in your arms. I think that more of the same and more so is the only response to those people, and you would receive any percentage of royalities that you like. Let me know what you think.
Sally and I are back in New York and expecting a baby in March. Taylor is here too and I am preparing to shoot my first film called “Dr. Mystic” which will star him.
Wynn Chamberlain was a successful artist in New York in the 1960s. He lived and worked at 222 Bowery and was friends with Andy Warhol, Willem de Kooning, Larry Rivers, William Burroughs, Brion Gysin, Frank O’Hara & Jonas Mekas. In 1967, he produced Charles Ludlam’s off-Broadway extravaganza CONQUEST OF THE UNIVERSE starring Taylor Mead, which was attended almost every night by Marcel Duchamp. In 1969 he wrote & directed the ground-breaking film BRAND X (released in May 1970 – see www.brandxmovie.com) starring Taylor Mead, also attended constantly by Marcel Duchamp when it showed at the Elgin Theater in New York. In 1971 he went to India, lived there for twenty years with his wife and children Sam & Sara & wrote two novels GATES OF FIRE & THEN SPOKE THE THUNDER, published by Grove Press. In 1997 he moved to Marrakech, Morocco & wrote another novel, PARADISE, published by Kadmos Publishing.