Monday, December 16, 2013

Gracing the Emerald Cup

Scout, Grace Slick
The Emerald Cup's 10th Anniversary event at Northern California's Santa Rosa Fairgrounds last weekend was, by all accounts, a leap forward in acceptance and celebration around the cannabis plant. And oh yea, it was a great party too.

Music was provided by Big Brother and the Holding Company (sadly, without Janis Joplin), Canned Heat (who opened with a rocking "On the Road Again"), and Jefferson Starship (missing Grace Slick).

Slick was shoulder to shoulder with Janis as the strongest female rock and roll voice of the 60s. The girl could wail. On top of that, she wrote "White Rabbit" the rock anthem of its day with a haunting Bolero beat:

One pill makes you larger 
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you 
Don't do anything at all
Go ask Alice
When she's ten feet tall.  

Asked about the song, Slick said, "...[P]arents read us these books, like Alice in Wonderland, where she gets high, tall, and she takes mushrooms, a hookah, pills, alcohol. And then there's the Wizard of Oz, where they fall into field of poppies and when they wake up they see Oz. And then there's Peter Pan, where if you sprinkle white dust on you, you could fly. And then you wonder why we do it? Well, what did you read to me?" (SOURCE: Got a Revolution! The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane by Jeff Tamarkin, 2003 Atria Books)

Slick has now put down the mike and picked up a paintbrush, and her visual art is as provocative and powerful as her music. At the event, her presence was decidedly present with a Wonderland display of her paintings and prints, kindly brought by Fine Art Productions in Santa Rosa. (She is also represented by Saatchi Art.)

Monterey, Grace Slick

In Monterey, a visual record of the pre-Woodstock Monterey Pop festival of 1967,  Slick lights a J for David Crosby and Jerry Garcia, flanked by Mama Cass and Jimi Hendrix. The Who, Joplin, John Phillips, John Lennon, Ravi Shankar, Gandhi and Alice (with a bunny on her head) are depicted. It reminded me of The Cup, and of Marie Laurencin's Les Invitees, a painting of a 1908 hashish adventure.

The rabbit is a big part of Slick's iconography, and she's invented a character named "Rescue Rabbit" who, in one painting, carries cannabis to the Capitol building in DC and in another ("Shootin Dope") fires a gun at its medicine cabinet. Another image has Alice perched on a mushroom, chasing a rabbit on a path where Timothy Leary appears as the mad hatter and Ram Dass is the caterpillar. Slick paints Alice smoking a hookah herself (only the grouchy Queen abstains) in Marikkesh.

P.L. Travers as Titania in A Midsummer Nights Dream
Just in time for Christmas: Another magical children's character, Mary Poppins, will be back on the big screen in Saving Mr. Banks. I notice in the original Disney movie, the children get high at a giggly tea party on the ceiling, and jump into a psychedelic chalk painting. Poppins creator P.L. Travers was a bohemian who was greatly affected by Gurdjieff and hung out with hashish-taker William Butler Yeats, who fostered her interest in world mythology.

The Paris Review asked Travers, "What do you think of the books of Carlos Castaneda?" She replied:

I like them very much. They take me into a world where I fear I will not belong. It’s a bit more occult than my world, but I like Don Juan’s idea about what a warrior is and how a warrior should live. In a way, we all have to live like warriors; that’s the same as being the hero of one’s own story. I feel that Castaneda has been taken into other dimensions of thinking and experiencing. I don’t pretend to understand them, and I think I understand why Castaneda is so slow to give interviews and tries to separate himself from all of that. He doesn’t want to explain. These things can’t be explained in ordinary terms. . .

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