The oxymoron of conventional wisdom repeats the canard that hippie-era communes were simply safe houses for sex, drugs and rock & roll. While communards enjoyed fleshy and sensory pleasures, they also worked as hard as maybe harder than most squares. Author/photographer Roberta Price lived at one, Libre in Colorado, for seven years, an adventure detailed in her fascinating memoir Huerfano. Her new book, Across the Great Divide: A Photo Chronicle of the Counterculture, is a visual tour of Southwestern communes. One of them, the Reality Construction Company, explains the communal raison d'etre in its name: Young people were reinventing life from the ground up. We see groups of freaks toiling in the sun, building domes and rock houses, raising children, milking goats. In one of the most striking images, poet Peter Orlovsky chops wood in the nude, revealing his laborer's musculature as well as Price's smart eye. Accompanied by a slide show tonight, she'll discuss her days as a 20th-century pioneer woman amidst her fellow rural space explorers.
Sat., Jan. 22, 5 p.m., 2011