Counterculture Meets Mall Culture for Grace Slick

Grace Slick, of psychedelic rock fame, at the Wentworth Gallery with Mad Hatter-attired fan John Jacobs and her White Rabbit artwork.
Grace Slick, of psychedelic rock fame, at the Wentworth Gallery with Mad Hatter-attired fan John Jacobs and her White Rabbit artwork. (Photos By Carol Guzy -- The Washington Post)

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By Sue Kovach Shuman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 13, 2007

Grace Slick says she can't remember a lot of things, which is perhaps no surprise given how much she drank and drugged herself into oblivion during her reign as a rock-and-roll queen. But she knows who she is today: "I'm a 67-year-old fat, white-haired, liver-spotted woman."

Of her body, she says, "It's all lumpy stuff with lines."

Ahem. Anything else?

"I think old people are scary," says the former hippie vixen. "They remind you of your own death. People don't like to tell you that."

This is where Grace Slick likes to be: in your face, her blue eyes holding you hostage, unleashing verbal assaults. As lead singer for the Jefferson Airplane in the 1960s and the group it begat in the '70s, Jefferson Starship, she was a voice of countercultural transgression. Now she's an artist holding court at a gallery in a suburban shopping mall, where some 150 people have come to see her paintings and drawings. But mostly it is a chance for them to set their eyes on a legend, the woman who did all those bad things that horrified parents -- and survived.

Polka-dotted teacups are set on a table at the Wentworth Gallery in Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, in a tribute to Slick, whose work revolves around "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," nudes and rock musicians (live ones like Eric Clapton, but more often dead ones like Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Jerry Garcia and Janis Joplin).

Near the gallery's entrance, a poster of a young woman stares hard into you, eyes peeking out from under thick brown bangs: It's an iconic 1968 photo of Slick, then about 28, wearing a green Girl Scouts USA shirt.

Today Slick's thick white hair is pulled back in a ponytail that cascades to her waist; she wears silver hoop earrings the diameter of a small yogurt container. She's seated at a black-clothed table; her black-fringed sweater poncho is paired with pencil-cut black jeans; a deep red chenille scarf drapes her shoulders. When she smiles, which isn't often, she is radiant.

Before taking the first of several cigarette breaks, she pops out a false incisor, then shoves it back in.

What happened to her tooth? "It fell out," she barks. "I'm old."

Security guards flanking her, she is escorted outdoors to smoke. She's obviously someone important, but passing shoppers don't seem to know who. But her presence is felt, and when she returns to the gallery, the faithful gather.


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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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