The voice is not one you will ever forget. Her talent doesn't stop there though. She has been on the art scene for about a decade now, touring with her works in exhibits from Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Malibu to England and New York. She may have entered pop culture through our ears, but she is leaving just as strong an influence on our psyche with her visual arts.
"White Rabbit" was a 60's smash hit and still is in music today. In the world of Grace Slick's art, the white rabbit is one of Slick's biggest sellers. A portion of her work is a series of "Alice in Wonderland" works related to her hit song "White Rabbit," including a white rabbit that she cannot seem to keep in stock because requests are so frequent for the portrait. According to her agent, Scott Hann with Area Arts, the rabbit isn't even her best selling work. Hann says Slick's best seller is a color series entitled "Monterey" that amid the crowd is Alice balancing a white rabbit on her head.
Slick's works include portraits of major music stars like Sting and Hendrix and some stunning minimalist nude works like the self-titled "Slick" - a moody black and white copperplate etching. Slick is still very beautiful, witty, never out of a quip, smart and she still sees the bright side of things at 68-years old. Give her five minutes in a conversation, and she will have your sides splitting with laughter.
MAJ: You set the tone for the female lead singer in the male-dominated world of rock music, even defining the psychedelic rock sound with your powerful voice. You seem to be doing the same thing in the world of art for women with your powerful images. How hard has it been as a woman to find legitimacy as an artist?
SLICK: It wasn’t hard either way, I’m sorry to say. It wasn't difficult. Women have always been singers. A lot of women have been artists, not as many as men. Quite a few, particularly in the 20th and 21st centuries. So what I’ve done all my life is not that unusual. The only thing I’ve done that’s so unusual is the "Alice in Wonderland" pictures. There’s no prince charming. All the little fairy tales for girls have a prince charming saving them. You have to get your own stuff organized. You get a job. And then you get a guy. Not some guy to save you. For instance, there were a lot women my age who did that. They’d have three children. The guy would leave them for a younger woman. Louis Carroll wrote about a girl with no prince charming. She would get scared and frightened, but she kept on going. That is a good story for little girls. Alice came out of Victorian England. I came out of the 60’s. They’re both very similar. I indentified very heavily with that story. I do a lot of stories about Alice and the white rabbit. When you get older, its not what you did that you regret. It is what you did not do. I never did ride a horse or go to the Middle East. And, I never did Jimi Hendrix. I wish I would’ve done that one.
MAJ: Music and art have defined your life? Or is it that you've defined your music and art?
SLICK: It works both ways. I was just talking to my daughter this morning. I’m one of those people who tends to, for better or worse, denies myself by what I do for a living. And, that gets in the way of relationships a lot. Not so much now. She lives over the garage here in this big suite, so I see her a lot now. But when she was younger, I would take-off for four months, so she has abandonment issues. Everybody has issues now. I would have loved it if my parents had taken-off for four months. Then there would only be one adult telling me what to do. Do unto others as you’d have them do unto to you. I would have loved it, but she doesn’t see it that way.
MAJ: Your work 9/11, a Giclée on canvas of Janis Joplin kneeling on an American flag, how much has Janis Joplin influenced your art and your life?
SLICK: A lot of women from Texas have influenced me, because they’re very self sufficient. When I came to San Francisco, most women wouldn't move. They'd stay with a guy who beats them up, or some hideous situation, a Hellish situation, rather than something new. Those women from Texas were very bright. I really liked them a lot and learned a lot from them. One of the tour managers quit, so this lady named Sally took over. I was going with Skip Johnson, and she had the hots for the keyboard player. She organized everybody on the spur of the moment. Janis was from Texas. She was very daring, and I liked that about them. It opened me up. I'm more tight-assed. I’m more, “its got to be planned out.” I’m real anal about going anywhere, although I love to travel. I’m leaving for Denver on Wednesday, and I am already half-packed. These Texas women showed me you don’t have to be quite that closed-up and enjoy life. Even if you plan everything out, at least enjoy it when you get there.
MAJ: Your work “Slick” is a very lonely visual, beautiful etching with a powerful voice even though we never see her face. How much do you think the ‘60’s revolution has stuck with you and your art?
SLICK: I'm a Barack Obama fan. And the idea of his bringing people together, the hope, the fact that he is mixed race, that is what we were getting at in the 60’s. It made me cry. If this country can elect this man, its going to be some kind of circle will be closed from what we were aiming at in the 60’s. I talk with the father of my daughter’s girlfriend. We have that feeling of what we were going for is acceptance. It does not matter what color. What their religion is. It’s what they’re about. And the same thing with us. What we were trying to do, whether we took drugs or whatever, we were trying to accept each other and get out of the war. Obama is trying to do the same thing. People call it elite.
I call it Presidential. Do you want a President who is Presidential or a buffoon from Texas? I think we need someone who is elegant and Presidential and all those things we were going for. I think Hendrix represented the 60’s more than anybody else. As an individual, he exemplifies that colorfulness and acceptance. I'm just hoping we get the Presidential guy. I like Hillary. She’s OK, but there’s something a little creepy about having another Washington dynasty. It's too Arkansas, and I don’t’ mean Bill Clinton. I mean screwing your uncle. It's too monarchy like. Let’s try something different. People say, well he's inexperienced. I say how much experience did George Washington have? John Adams? None of them did anything political before. They all wanted freedom, unity, no taxation. The people we base this whole country on, the founding fathers, didn't have any experience either. They did a damn good job writing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. So just because you don’t have experience, doesn’t mean you’re stupid. I want somebody who makes good judgments. You see Iraq is not a good idea and you see it now, not three years later. So this is a political rant on Barack Obama, but I don’t cry that often. So when I watch him speak, there is something terribly moving about it. This country looked foolish for so long and was considered foolish for so long. We can’t do that anymore. It's a global economy, and they think we’re a bunch of silly farts. I think it would be wonderful to correct that opinion and be righteous again.
MAJ: You were very ill in 2006. You underwent an induced coma, had two major surgeries, one that involved a tracheotomy, and then you had to learn to walk again. Do you find that experience entering your art?
SLICK: When they got through patching me up, the doctors said, “We don’t know why you’re alive.” I don’t want to hear that from the doctors after making it through all that. They did an amazing job. Whole different sets of doctors at Saint Johns. All kinds of people doing operations and pulling tubes and shoving things around. The experience entered my art before hand, and my agent said something about it. I never do abstract. It's always rock and roll. It’s simple. You know what it is, and it's right in your face. It's brightly colored. Not like Jazz or complicated classical music you can't understand. It's simple. I really love the animators. I think of my art as individual cells, individual animated cells. Most people have never heard of an animator. Some of hem are just amazing artists to be able to render both the image and its continual tmovement. I love the animators. But, I don’t know if I could. I love the classical too, but I tend to be more of an animator than anything else. It’s a simple form like rock and roll, so its actually a continuation. I did Obama, but its hard to draw political ideas. People say in a song you can use words. I have not been able to figure out how to do political ideas. Goya did a painting of a guy at night up against a wall being shot by the army. He was a rebel. He is being shot with this horrible look on his face. Now that is a political picture. But, I don’t know how I would be able to do that. And, I don’t know if people are so miserable anyway that they would buy something that is that dark. My agent asked if I would do Woodstock. I said, what do you want a bunch of people in the mud? I’ve got a bunch of file cards taped onto this canvas trying to figure out how to do Woodstock, trying not to make it look like a muddy mess, which is what it was. I don’t know where to start with the negative stuff. So I suppose I would do politically charged paintings. But I've really not gotten to it yet. That does not mean I won’t dive into it though.
MAJ: How much was the hospital experience a metaphor on your life as a whole? You’ve always been such a strong person.
SLICK: My ex-husband’s girlfriend and I talk. We're all kind of friendly. She thinks, boy are you a tough old broad. And, she is right. And, I don’t know why, because I don’t take care of myself. Never have. Everything I do is sedentary, and I smoke, drink and have taken drugs off and on since I was 15. I just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I have a friend who is still an airline stewardess, but she used to snort nitrous oxide and poppers just before take-off. She used to hang-out with us, and we'd get high and screw the guys in the band. When I was in the band, we were a wild and crazy bunch. Why are we still alive? You don’t want to lean on it too hard, because I lived through this. You just keep doing whatever you're doing. I don’t do drugs anymore. Being old is pathetic. But doing drugs and being old is really pathetic. You can’t think in those terms. That’s why I don’t use oil pants. It takes too long. So I use acrylic. It dries in about 24 hours. I don’t have100 years to wait for oil paints to dry. So I like pastel, pencil, paper, acrylic. There is one thing I do fairly well. There is this thing called a scratch board. So it is really etched. It lends itself very well to fur, but it is over and over again to get everything. People buy a lot of it. You can buy the original. Or you can buy a Giclée, or what I call copies. They make really good copies. When I go to the gallery, I never know what will be there. That is up to my agent. I have to go up to it and feel it to find out if it is a copy. They’re so good at copying stuff. The original can be anywhere from $17,000 to $30,000. Or, you can buy a copy which is $4,000 or 5,000. So there are all levels of prices. There is another form. I send it to my agent. He takes a complicated picture of it and makes four copies. He sends me all four copies, and says paint over it. And that is what happened with the Janis picture. I sent him a picture of her on her hands and knees. It’s that raw thing. She used to wear a lot of fur and bows and feathers. So I dressed her the way she never dressed and sent it to my agent. So he said draw something on that. So I put the American flag behind her. I’m not sure why, because she did not do political songs. And three days later, 9/11 happened. So I sold that painting for the firefighters. Sometimes that happens. I’ll write something, and ten years later that happens. I don’t’ do abstracts, but I did this thing that looks like a bunch of blood and guts. And my agent said, “Wow, what’s this?” A month later I was in the hospital. Blood and guts also. There was a negative. This guy swinging his head around, and there was shit flying around in the picture. That was just before the hospital.
So, I’m a little afraid of my paintings and lyrics. I don’t think I'm unique in that. There are levels of being a good with precog. Some people are really good at it and some don’t see it at all. And I’m sort of mediocreminus. Some are good at it. And they use them for crime scenes. And there is a premise hard to get your head around. It is a zone thing. There is no time. It is all happening now. We have big trouble with that. What is all this stuff of precog and going back in time if that is wrong. There was this woman in the 50’s who knew all about the streets and everything that happened 100 years before her life. People say, “Do you believe in extra life, ET?” I say, of course. That’s a lot of hubris to think we are the only ones in the universe. We may not have run into them on the cover of Time Magazine. Since they can get here, and we can’t get there, they’re smarter than us. They look at us, how we operate this planet, and I think they say they don’t want to land just yet.
MAJ: There seems to be a theme in your art that's been a theme in your life. You have on a few occasions been arrested for what you've referred to as "Talking Under The Influence" or a “TUI.” One instance in particular, you were merely reading a poetry book and having a glass of wine in the park. But the officer apparently did not like your tone, so off to jail you went. Your art has that same feeling of flipping-off convention. Yet, you rarely show your face when creating a self-portrait. You're overtly feminist and at the same time, very humble. What feelings do you go through while creating your art?
SLICK: The main reason I don’t show faces, it is a feeling. It’s not anybody in particular. Everybody has had those feelings, getting on the floor, god this sucks, whatever this is. They are generally nudes. If I put clothes on them, then I date it. It is a feeling human beings have. I prefer to paint females, because they're more smooth and sensuous to draw. They're rounder. I’ve done males, but I prefer drawing the roundness. Generally their backs are turned, because I like doing butts. I draw a lot of booty. That is my version of a booty call at age 68.
MAJ: What new works do you have in the pipeline?
SLICK: Obama. It is sitting in front of me, glaring at me. Woodstock, because I was asked to draw Woodstock by my agent. I’m still trying to figure out how to do it so it isn’t 95 percent mud. So it's people. You see Hendrix and Janis. So we’re all getting together, holding hands, bowing. So that it is what is happening on the stage. People in the audience doing different things. Some dancing. Some sleeping. A joyous appearance instead of just mud, because that is what I remember.