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Grace Slick paints Jerry Garcia

Kanada Kev

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I never would have recognized her in this picture:



Visions of Wonderland

Former Jefferson Airplane singer will meet gallery visitors -- just don't ask her to sign old albums.

By Jessie Brunner

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As the former front woman of Jefferson Airplane, Grace Slick initially thought it would be "too cutesy" to illustrate rock 'n' roll icons when she started her art career in the early '90s.

But after painting her first portrait of the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia, she enjoyed the opportunity to portray the musician as she knew him, and now images of performers such as Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix pervade her collection, currently on display at the Wentworth Gallery in Newport Beach with artist receptions scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.

"A lot of the photographs of Jerry Garcia make him look stupid, and I wanted to turn that idea around," said Slick, who lives in Malibu. "With painting, I could change him into the man I knew, who was very smart and very receptive."

The exhibition also includes scratchboards of animals, acrylic and screen-print nudes and several works from "The Wonderland Suite," which tracks Alice and her associates throughout their curious adventures.

The Lewis Carroll tale has long been an inspiration for Slick. Her song "White Rabbit" earned Jefferson Airplane a top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 list in 1967 and was later recognized as one of Rolling Stone magazine's 500 greatest songs of all time.

"Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" by Carroll "is the only fairy story we read when we are young where the girl doesn't have some prince charming saving her," she said. "I think it's important for little girls to hear that you can go into a screwy place like Wonderland — like the world — and you can do it on your own."

Though Slick, 67, discovered her knack for art as a young child, she did not pursue it seriously until she retired from the music business in 1989 because she is "not a multi-tasker."

Slick aims for her artwork to be an intersection of Walt Disney and Johannes Vermeer, and she sticks to no particular style. Describing her work as "blunt, simple, colorful and easy to understand, like rock 'n' roll," there's only one thing she won't paint.

"I find vases of flowers to be somewhat repetitive in the art world," said Slick, who doesn't understand why her print of a rabbit riding a tricycle on China Beach in front of the Golden Gate Bridge is so popular.

The artist invites guests at her reception to present her with any questions they might have, but she will not autograph any albums, hoping to distance herself from notions that she is a musician dabbling in the art world.

"I don't know why anybody would think you can't sing and draw," she said. "It's the same as an accountant who plays a good game of tennis, and it's also not outstanding because you are using the same part of the brain for both."

With about 75 of Slick's original and limited edition giclee prints on display, Wentworth Gallery director Ralph Passante said that her talent for visual art is not at all eclipsed by her flair as a psychedelic rocker.

"I think if she were to just put her work out as an artist, she would do quite well with it because she is really talented," Passante said. "The fact that she is a bona fide rock 'n' roll legend just adds to it."


WHAT: An artist's reception with Grace Slick

WHEN: 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, noon to 3 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: The Wentworth Gallery, 271 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach

COST: Admission is free; artwork will be for sale

INFO: Call (949) 760-9554 or go to www.wentworthgallery.com

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