Grace Slick, famously known for her role as a singer-songwriter in the bands Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship, made a rare public appearance for a Q & A at Mr Musichead Gallery on Thursday, October 17, 2019, in Hollywood, where her art is being shown now through November 2.
Over 40 original works and limited edition prints were on display. The show follows Mr Musichead’s 50th Anniversary celebration of Woodstock and precedes the 50th anniversary of Jefferson Airplane’s fifth album, Volunteers.
Delicious appetizers by Chef Vinni delighted me because some of the delectables were vegan! Craft Cocktails by Ramon delighted everyone else; like Slick, I don’t drink alcohol anymore. What a night! I felt fancy as I nibbled food and pondered the rock star’s art, drinking water and taking notes. And then the living legend appeared! But the crowd, most of whom had paid seventy-five dollars for entry to the opening night and reception, stayed cool.
Slick’s art is already signed, but that night, she personalized purchases. If only I had more money! I’d buy “Alice Greets Rabbit.” If only I’d brought my First Edition copy of her memoir, “Somebody To Love” (1998), for her to sign! But I must confess I was rather intimidated, as the artist is known for her acid tongue as well as her acid rock, and I’m a vulnerable soul…
So I was satisfied to stand by her side as she signed her art, admiring up close her long white hair held neatly back with a pretty beaded band, and her deep focus as she signed each piece. She wore all black, accentuated by silver bracelets and her sparkly silver toenail polish that looked like diamonds.
Using acrylic paints, and inspired by Lewis Carroll’s “Alice In Wonderland” and “Through The Looking Glass,” Slick paints art of critters, rock icons, and cities, along with a few self-portraits and political commentary. Her song, “White Rabbit,” from 1967’s Surrealistic Pillow, is one of my favorite songs, and so, too, are her renderings of rabbits among my favorites of her artwork. The rabbits seem to beckon! Her eye for detail demonstrates her close observation and unwavering hand; each hair and gesture graceful and realistic. Her canvases are mostly uncomplicated, with bright colors, and a central figure who centers the space with a one-color backdrop. Even in the crowded pieces there is that sense of orderly space, and measured emphasis.
“I’m no Picasso,” Slick told the crowd, but “my art is rock ‘n’ roll.”
Multi-instrumentalist in attendance, Paul Shaffer, told us that when Jerry Garcia turned to him, arms out as they played together on stage, “I finally got what he was about.” Openness, a vibe that can be felt in Slick’s art of the Grateful Dead’s guitarist and vocalist.
Slick said she began painting after a painful break-up in the early 1990s, and that she paints animals because they make her happy. She tells us she was born in the Year of the Rabbit, and that when a rabbit was once given to her onstage, during a concert, she rescued the critter and raised her.
Slick readily answered the assorted questions from the audience. She said she doesn’t like rap, loves classical if it’s not robotic, and that she likes Pink’s voice and likes that she’s tough. She likes Celine Dion’s voice, too (if not her style), and appreciates Barbra Streisand, “who doesn’t do stupid shit onstage.” Disarmingly, Slick said that the nudes she’s painted were what “I’d like to have had as a body and never did.” Her honesty and sense of humor are as unwavering as her voice, her art, and her attention.”It took twenty years to get twenty years [clean and sober],” Slick told the riveted crowd. She explained that she liked 12-step meetings, but that she really liked liquor, too, making us all laugh.
On being a woman in music, Slick said it was not something that ever stymied her.
“Because it didn’t occur to me that it would be difficult,” She said. “Women have always been singers, women have always been entertainers,” and that bra-burning and women’s marches were “the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. You don’t burn your bra if you want a job, you go to school.” But then she added that women earn less per hour than men do anyway, despite the same education credentials.
On the black piano in the back of the large space were scattered many prints of her art. A man and I admired one, which he bought. “It’s the most unusual caterpillar I’ve ever seen,” he commented, and indeed it was quite a strange and cool caterpillar. He stared hard at it, then shared with me that he spoke with Slick for a long time as she signed it. He said that he thinks she really likes people, and is interested in them. His eyes creased with deep pleasure as he contemplated her personalized note to him on the art.
In the midst of the Q & A, Slick sang a cappella: a few lines from “(I’ll Be With You) In Apple Blossom Time.” Her singing voice was soft, rich, certain, and in tune. Unrushed and unaccompanied, her voice had that power surge that can be heard in the music she’s made. I wish, wish, wish I’d bootlegged the audio! But again, my own fear of disapproval held me back, a self-censoring fear Slick lacks. Even if one doesn’t like her opinions, one must admire her fearlessness–she is who she is, she states what she thinks, and she paints what she likes.
A portion of ticket proceeds from the evening also served as a fundraiser to benefit Venice Arts. For more information visit VeniceArts.org.
Mr Musichead Gallery – 7420 W Sunset Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90046 – (323) 876-0042