'Once Upon a Time' by Grace Slick

Based on her tempestuous rock-star career as lead singer for Jefferson Airplane in the 1960s, no one would expect Grace Slick to be shy or demure, even at age 73.

And sure enough, she isn’t.

“I’ve lived a good life,” she said by phone from her Malibu home. “Now I’m an old broad.”

In her second career as an artist, Slick produces paintings just as colorful and provocative as her songs. She’ll appear Saturday, May 18, at the Norcal Modern Gallery in Healdsburg, which is hosting her “Once Upon a Time” exhibit.

Her work is filled with “Alice in Wonderland” images reminiscent of Slick’s 1967 hit, “White Rabbit,” but her interest in art, and Alice, predates her rock and roll career, she said.

“I knew I could draw when I was very little. I used to draw angels when I was about 5,” she said.

“The story of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ was the only one that was read to me where some Prince Charming doesn’t come along and save her,” Slick said. “She has a lot of guts. She does it all herself. She doesn’t stop.”

Grace Slick

While Slick’s income comes from her music royalties, she doesn’t deny the commercial appeal of her iconic White Rabbit paintings.

“People will, for obvious reasons, buy pictures of white rabbits from me. Now I’m getting real good at drawing rabbits,” Slick said.

“I have an agent, and his job is to sell stuff,” she added. “He finds that my portraits of other rock musicians also sell, and I enjoy doing that, too.”

Slick wrote “White Rabbit” while in a Bay Area Band called The Great Society, formed in 1965. After joining Jefferson Airplane the following year, she recorded the song for the “Surrealistic Pillow” album.

She also performed in the band’s later incarnations — Jefferson Starship, from 1981 to 1984, and Starship, until 1988. She retired from rock and roll in 1989, and began painting in the mid-1990s.

Her first art show was in Florida in 2000, and she has had more than 100 exhibits since then, creating fanciful images with bright acrylic paints.

“I like really heavy, knock-your-brains-out color,” Slick said. “I paint in acrylic, because it’s fast, and I don’t have a lot of time left to sit around and let oil paint dry.”

What: “Once Upon a Time: The Artwork of Grace Slick”
Where: Norcal Modern Gallery, 115 Plaza St., Healdsburg.
When: The exhibit opens Thursday, May 9,  and runs 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, except Mondays, until May 29. Slick will appear at the gallery from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, May 18.
Information: 544-1125, info@areaarts.com.

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