'60s icon artwork

There's more to Grace Slick than rock 'n' roll

Fairfield Daily Republic ©

WALNUT CREEK - The fires in San Bernardino seem to consume Grace Slick's attention for a bit before she chats candidly about herself.

"That's 20,000 acres being burned and I can smell it," she says bluntly in a seared voice affected by years of smoking. "That ash travels for miles and eventually it's hard to breathe."

Only then does the rebellious rocker of Jefferson Airplane embark with anecdotes of yesteryear adding vivid stories to her repertoire that reincarnate the '60s. David Crosby, Peter O'Toole and Jimi Hendrix, times of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll come to mind, but that's in the past.

Yet, it's the directness in her conversation that solidifies the honest and undaunted personality of this singer-turned-painter.

"Look, I've been painting for eight years, I'm all over it, I'm obsessive about stuff I like and that's OK as long as it isn't alcohol," she says without reservation.

Slick, 66, stays faithfully at her house in Southern California, painting Alice (in Wonderland), white rabbits and icons of the '60s, such Jim Morrison of the Doors, Janis Joplin and Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones.

She creates on average of about 50 to 60 paintings a year, and sells them at prices ranging between $1,500 to $30,000 each, depending on the size and whether it's an original or a copy. And it's not her friends doing the buying.

"My friends don't have that money," she says laughingly. "One is almost bankrupt, one is a caterer, I don't see Ali McGraw (actress) often but she hasn't bought anything, and David Crosby hasn't bought anything either.

"I don't know any famous people buying my work, but those rich people are paying my mortgage," she confesses.

Her work is sold at galleries across the nation, such as in Celebrity Art Gallery in Walnut Creek, where her work will appear 6:30-9:30 p.m. Saturday, running through Oct. 30. And surprisingly, almost any icon of the '60s is an apt choice for purchase, along with Alice and the White Rabbit series - a fixation the artist has had for years.

"The White Rabbit has been my life," she admits.

She believes her life parallels that of "Alice in Wonderland," both born into a rigid era and fulfilling the curiosity the white rabbit represents.

Slick also compares the '60s to that of Alice falling down the hole, filled with "freaks and political intrigue," and, more importantly, "there's no prince charming that comes along."

"It's the only story that no one is saving her ass," Slick says bluntly, who was also born in the year of the rabbit. "You don't count on the prince. If he comes, that's wonderful, but don't count on it."

Fair enough, Slick. But one can count on her bustling with artwork, although she's not quite fond of each piece and will admit to it freely. The white-haired woman, who wakes at 4 a.m. and takes several naps a day, uses acrylics, pencils and pens in her work, simply because "oil takes too long. If I was 25, OK, but I'm 66 and I don't have time to mess around."

She also uses scratch board and admits it's an oddball form of art that few artists use.

As for the similarities between music and art, well, it's basically the same concept, she says. It just depends on the message.

"It's just a form of communication," she says. "It's people interacting, neat colors, eating some food, someone screwing someone in the corner, everyone having a good time, while the opposite of that would be the Bush administration."

So, what's really behind Slick and her paint fascination? Peek down the hole and find out.