Grace Slick took flight with the psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane when she belted “White Rabbit” (her classic, LSD-steeped riff on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland) before half a million hippies at Woodstock in 1969.
Today, the 72-year-old pillar (and survivor) of that heady sex, drugs and rock-and-roll era is decidedly down-to-earth-having traded her microphone for a paintbrush and now playing to art gallery crowds.
Yet her song remains the same.
“The 420 Collection,” an exhibition of Slick’s work designed to support the legality of medical marijuana and raise awareness of the politics surrounding it, arrives December 3-along with the artist herself-at Alexander Salazar Fine Art in the Gaslamp.
“Marijuana helps a great number of illnesses or discomforts and doesn’t have the extraordinary side effects pharmaceuticals do,” Slick says. “The biggest side effect of marijuana is that you might want a brownie.”
Throughout her music career, which she discontinued in the late 1980s, the Grammy-nominated Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee-an influence on popular female rockers including Stevie Nicks and Patti Smith-was vocal about the irony of a society addicted to alcohol and prescription drugs condemning hallucinogens and pot.
While Slick says her peace pipe-puffing days are long gone, her counterculture spirit lives on in “The 420 Collection.”
Deriving inspiration from sources as diverse as19th century French realist painter Henri Fantin-Latour and digital animation, Slick has become a reputable artist-particularly noted for colorful portraits of her 1960s musical peers, such as Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jerry Garcia. Not surprisingly, the “White Rabbit” motif also makes appearances in her work.
“I don’t do cutesy, precious stuff that you stand back and you turn your head sideways at,” Slick says. “My art is commercial art; rock n’ roll is commercial music. It’s easy to understand and hopefully it’s easy for people to connect with the image.”
If it isn’t, as her famous lyrics suggest, go ask Alice...