Grace Slick, former lead singer for the iconic rock band Jefferson Airplane, is bringing a taste of “Woodstock” to La Jolla’s Wentworth Gallery on March 28 and 29.
Slick performed at the 1969 Woodstock music festival in upstate New York. To commemorate the 40th anniversary of that event, Slick painted the youthful audience and the performers she shared the stage with, including the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, The Who and Janis Joplin.
Fans of Slick would expect the provocative singer/songwriter to give “Woodstock” her own special twist, and she does not disappoint.
“All the rock ‘n’ rollers seen on the stage were actually there and played,” she said. “But I also stuck in people that I like, even if they didn’t exist at that time, like my daughter, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed and Moses - I put in Barack Obama holding a basketball at the age he would have been in 1969.”
Slick also relished depicting the audience engaged in a range of activities.
“We had half a million people there doing all kinds of things like sleeping, making love and playing, so I took absolute freedom with the audience,” she said.
Slick stopped performing on stage in 1989 and detailed her colorful life in her autobiography, “Somebody to Love.” While she has painted since age 3, she took up art more intentionally 10 years ago during a challenging time in her life.
“I was feeling sad and began painting animals because they make me happy,” Slick said.
Slick still paints animals, but much of her work also centers on painting portraits of her many her rock legend friends, including Sting, Frank Zappa, John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Pete Townsend, Jim Morrison and Jerry Garcia. Because many of her subjects have passed on, she works from photographs.
“I get their bone structure right, and then I put on that bone structure the person I want people to see, or the person I thought they were,” she said. “I can’t do somebody else’s opinion of Jimi Hendrix, but I can do mine.”
Slick also likes painting the characters from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland.”
“It relates to the song “White Rabbit” and the 1960s and me because I wrote it,” she said. “I’ve drawn all the characters from Alice like the Mad Hatter and the caterpillar, but regardless of that song, people still love the characters because it’s a classic book.”
While Slick is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she doesn’t dwell on her glory days.
“I don’t miss performing,” she said. “I pick up a brush every day because I enjoy all of the arts, but if I couldn’t paint, I would write books, and if I couldn’t do that, I would be a set designer or an actor.”
Currently, Slick is working on a new series of paintings that blends the features of two animals.
“I’m doing ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau’ kind of stuff,” she said. “I did a ‘Raccardinal,’ which is an animal with a raccoon’s head and a cardinal’s body, and a ‘Buffalophant,’ which has a buffalo’s head and elephant body, and a ‘Frowl,’ blending a frog and an owl.”
Nearing age 70, Slick takes life as it comes. As a quintessential survivor of multiple medical crises, including a medically induced coma and a tracheotomy, her approach is philosophical and laced with the language of the 1960s.
“Things start falling apart,” she said. “We’re basically dying all the time, and I never know why I made it through, but I just figure OK, while you’re still here, you just keep on trucking.”
- Artist Grace Slick’s ‘Woodstock’ exhibition: