Palm Beach Post
Grace Slick's wild passion: Painting

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By Leslie Streeter

"I don't like old people on the rock 'n' roll stage — me included!" It was the parting shot heard 'round the world — pioneering rock icon Grace Slick announcing to the world, via a 1998 VH-1 interview, that she was officially off the rock 'n' roll nostalgia train that many of her 1960s contemporaries were riding.

And with the same in-your-face candor with which she and Jefferson Airplane enraptured music fans, Slick waved goodbye and started a new life — one less public but no less creative.

Grace Slick, seductively psychedelic front woman, is now Grace Slick, successful visual artist.

The California resident's first public art show was in Fort Lauderdale in 1989. Since then, she's had more than 30 exhibits of her work, which includes pen, pencil, watercolor, acrylic paint and scratchboard pieces depicting animals, nudes and other musicians.

But just because Slick, now 65, would rather draw or paint rock stars (Sting, Jerry Garcia) than be one, doesn't mean that she's abandoned her trademark candor.

Last week, by phone, the woman who brought shape-shifty lyrics about romantic alienation (Somebody To Love) and the hallucinatory properties of classic literature (White Rabbit) talked to The Palm Beach Post about her art, her past, the future of music and her only regret.

Question: A co-worker of mine, who has been a fan of yours since the 1960s, went to see your last local art show several years ago, admittedly because she was a fan and curious about your art. She wound up actually buying something, which you signed. Do you think that's how a lot of people find their way to your shows?

Answer: Oh, sure. It's the name. In other words, if I were an artist named Sylvia Brown or something, a lot of people would not show up. In that sense, it's like Liza Minnelli once said, that you're very lucky if your name, or your mother's name, gets people in the door. But once they're in the door, you'd better produce. Your name is not gonna carry it. The art has to keep them there.

Q: So what is it about your art that keeps them there, and makes them buy?

A: It's the same as rock 'n' roll. People can identify with (my art). It's not precious. In other words, I'm not some New York artist who's trying to be precious or so bizarre that no one can understand it. Art for me is not saying that everyone else is wrong. Art is communication... The art world is just crazy s—-, blowing smoke up your own a— about how clever you are. My agent goes crazy when I say this, but I would never buy an original of anybody's. I buy art for the image, and I don't (care) who painted it. I'm never going to know them anyway.

The only reason to buy an original, to pay money for it, is because you're trying to brag to your friends about what you have. Most of them aren't impressed anyway, because it either comes down to envy or they're thinking, "How dumb can you get paying that much money for a bunch of paint?" In museums, they have wonderful posters. If I like it I buy the posters. I have a lot of art on my walls, and its all copies. I don't even have my own stuff on the walls.

Q: Wow. So... why should anyone buy your originals?

A: Beats me! Here's the deal. Brussel sprouts themselves are not good or bad. Some people like them and some don't. I don't. That's not right or wrong. You're just getting my point of view. I won't spend $20,000 and up for anything besides a car or a house. I just don't see the need in it.

Q: That seems to be the complete opposite of some of your fellow celebrities. There are entire television shows and magazines devoted to the stuff that famous people buy.

A: I don't get it.... I would like to have a helicopter, but how stupid is that? I'd have to be paying (over) time and I won't do that. So how stupid is that to do if I don't have the cash? It's curious to me to do that, because it's not going to impress people, and it isn't going to make them like you more.

Q: The Jefferson Airplane episode of Behind The Music is my absolute favorite of the entire series because you were so honest about everything that happened within the band. What do you think of this phenomenon of '60s, '70s and now '80s musicians who are contrite and talking about how they took too many drugs and slept with too many people?

A: I didn't take too many drugs. I took exactly the right amount to get me to where I am. If I'd taken any more, I'd be dead. Any less, and I wouldn't be on the same spiritual program that makes me very much at peace now. What a wonderful disease or dis-ease. You just had to have a cut-off point (to the behavior) and most of us missed it by several years.

Q: What are your overwhelming memories or moments of that time?

A: I'm not sure if I have any that make any sense. Yet, like Robin Williams said, if you remember the '60s, you weren't really there. I thought it was fun and I still do. My only regret is not (sleeping with) Jimi Hendrix and Peter O'Toole.

Q: Well, then!

A: Everything you do (decides) where you are. If you don't like where you are, you need to look at it and say, "Well, maybe I ought to do something else."

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