Tag Archives: Mecca Normal

New York Times features on Riot Grrrl

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Mecca Normal entry in the New York Times Riot Grrrl Listening Guide

New York Times Popcast: The Return of Bikini Kill and the Long Tail of Riot Grrrl

3 minute Mecca Normal segment of the New York Times Popcast about Riot Grrrl features “I Walk Alone”

We recorded “I Walk Alone” as it was written, and released it in 1986 on our first LP on Smarten UP! — the label I created using the same name as my fanzine (subtitled: a How to Change the World Publication). The album was re-released by K Records in the mid-90s.

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The first LP (Smarten UP! Records, 1986) includes “I Walk Alone” re-released by K Records

“I Walk Alone Live” in 2015

Smarten UP! zine by Jean Smith mid 1980s, Vancouver

Smarten UP!, my mid-80s zine was “a How to Change the World Publication”

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Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill) Network, Toronto, 1992

It was interesting to hear one of the participants in the podcast lamenting the lack of live recordings of some of these bands, which is why David and I are thrilled about the new “LIVE in Montreal, 1996” album (Artoffact Records, 2019) which includes “I Walk Alone” as part of a 3-song feminist medley.

“I Walk Alone” has been in our set for most of the 35 years we’ve been playing. I almost always leave the ‘stage’ to go into the audience to sing it, something that has not been recorded and released until now.

Listen on Bandcamp Man Thinks Woman / Strong White Male / I Walk Alone “Live in Montreal, 1996”

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Video: Introduction

We have the evidence! Political art can change the world!

 

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Video: paintings available

$100 USD portrait paintings available (14 x 11″ acrylic on canvas panel). Music by Mecca Normal (Jean Smith and David Lester).

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Videos

I made two new Mecca Normal videos today using my paintings. They’ll be linked to upcoming Normal History columns for Magnet Magazine.

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Strong female expression

Early in 2016, while writing a YA novel about a rock band, I left a part time retail job when I began selling enough paintings (11 x 14″) on FaceBook to pay my bills. Since then I’ve painted around five hundred faces – the vast majority of women. I began painting self-portraits at thirteen to express an intensity I possessed that I didn’t see in advertising and magazine images of women at that time (1973). I’ve continued to explore strong female expression in my art practice, which includes writing, music and painting.

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Self-portrait (11 x 17″ tempera on paper, circa 1973)

 

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literary fiction, 1993

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A self-portrait photo on the cover of Mecca Normal’s 12th album (Kill Rock Stars, 2006) – songs from my yet-to-be published novel “Love Wants You.”

As the lyricist and singer in the band Mecca Normal, I have been writing about women and social justice since 1984. Most people who see my paintings know my background – or they are exposed to it online because of its proximity to where my paintings are posted. Viewers would understand that, at the very least, I’m not objectifying women, but beyond that I haven’t written an artist statement, other than to offer that I paint attitudes more than beauty or other superficial qualities, and that the vast amount of time involved in creating, honing and moving characters around in fiction informs my painting process as I keep working on pieces until I achieve a sort of complete personhood that exudes emotional depth rather than a concentration on physical attributes, which is the essence of how women are typically valued. In our society, what we look like is always the most important thing about us.

The long history of women as subjects in art made by men is intertwined with women not making art themselves. At this point in my artistic practice, I am painting without an overt political agenda, allowing my contemporary portrait paintings to speak for themselves.

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No Hat #258 (11 x 14″ acrylic on canvas panel) 2017 SOLD

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FaceBook Memories

My FaceBook page memories says I painted “No Hat #90” on this day’s date last year. It’s one of many I’ve done from a photo of transgender model Andreja Pejic, who I first painted in May of 2016 with “No Hat #21”.

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“No Hat #90” (acrylic on canvas board 11 x 14”) September 6, 2016.
$100 USD plus shipping.

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Andreja Pejic

No Hat #21 800“No Hat #21″ (acrylic on canvas board, 11 x 14”) May 12, 2016. SOLD

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“No Hat #94″ (acrylic on canvas board, 11 x 14”) SOLD

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“No Hat #79″ (acrylic on canvas board, 11 x 14”) SOLD

I return periodically to work from the photo of Andreja for various reasons. It’s soothing and stabilizing to paint the familiar — and it’s a barometer of my technical evolution in the ongoing series. I may consciously apply newly honed skills to it, aware of higher levels of brain-eye-hand activity that doesn’t always mean a better painting in the end. It’s still mostly about knowing when to stop. Each painting has thousands of micro-expressions (in the mouth and eyes in particular) that are in constant motion until I find a point where they hold a pronounced amount of personhood and attitude. It seems to be about inventing a fully fledged character that has obligations to me (and to you) — and possibly beyond that in terms of social philosophies and a history yet to unfurl.

Andreja Pejic is not just a well-lit face with lovely bone structure. Her story of personal and public evolution — and her professional understanding of what her face reveals — inform how I paint. I’m not overly-interested in making paintings that look like her. Obviously, as a very vocal feminist, I’m not using sex to sell art. I’m not subjugating women, but I think about these things. I worry about these things. What if I wasn’t a known feminist? Would my paintings of women be suspect?

Because I’m not beholden to the subject, I am free to change eye and hair color which are often based on other colours in the work, but I admit I am wary of painting too many blue-eyed blondes and what people will think when I paint African Americans. It was a truly strange week in my mind when I painted “The Party” without yet knowing of the uproar surrounding Dana Schutz’s painting “Open Casket” at the Whitney Biennial. Internally, I evaluated my motives and felt uneasy about how my painting might be interpreted, but it also gave me cause to realize nobody actually cares what I’m doing in any big way because I’m not in the “Art World” — I’m just some random painter who perhaps thinks her work is more important than it actually is. Having a history of being regarded as important in music has not translated to importance in writing and painting (yet).

People who see my work more or less know (and hopefully trust) my intentions, but is that good? I don’t essentially want to rely on that understanding. Anyway, it was a weird week.

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“The Party” (acrylic on canvas board, 11 x 14″) March 20, 2017.
$100 USD plus shipping.

While I’m painting, I’m physically advocating for a strong personality to evolve in spite of — and because of — how things are (in my life, in your life, in the world at large). Yet, there are paintings with unmasked vulnerability, sadness, pain too. And paintings that are all mask — whether its paint, make-up, a lack figurative clarity or part of a traditional costume (the Kabuki series… which are men wearing white make-up portraying women).

Kabuki #1 by Jean Smith

“Kabuki #1″ (acrylic on canvas board, 11 x 14”) March 1, 2016.
$100 USD at John Doe Records Hudson, NY.

In many ways painting is like playing music or writing for me. I allow myself to be influenced by excellence, to connect my work to history without being thwarted by all that can be known, I infuse work with idiosyncratic stances — some of which have been in place from the beginning, other facets of which are just turning up now.

That Mecca Normal and my great creative partnership with David Lester are running concurrently makes this a nearly collaborative endeavour. Dave’s encouragement and understanding of me as both an artist and a human fuel my resolve to work, building my confidence and tenacity. I admire his discipline (work on a graphic novel about Emma Goldman), motivation and generosity. When his book is published, we’ll likely do some Mecca Normal-based events that will also include what I’m doing with the painting project. As with much of or work, there will be over-lapping themes and exciting ways to collaborate.

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Drawing by David Lester – Graphic Novelist for his graphic novel about Emma Goldman.

I must admit, it suits my personality to be able to show people my paintings as soon as their finished. It’s integral, of course, the overall project. Books and records, tours and events all take so much time to complete and set in motion. It’s a great luxury to have an audience for my work here on FaceBook.

Thank-you for paying attention and for buying my paintings. This is the most exciting time of my life, but it would not be so without all the other incredibly exciting things that have happened (that I thought were the most exciting times).

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Late July into August

It’s typical for me to switch things up near the end of the month when sales slow due to rent and bills. During this time I break away from painting faces and gravitate towards animals, land or seascapes, and now city streets.

This post is linked to Vol. 443 of Normal History (September 16, 2017) in Magnet Magazine.
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Amidst the Waves″ (after Ivan Aivazovsky) (11 x 14″ acrylic on canvas panel) July 30, 2017. SOLD

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Sandhill Cranes″ (11 x 14″ acrylic on canvas panel) July 31, 2017. SOLD

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Amidst the Waves #2″ (after Ivan Aivazovsky) (11 x 14″ acrylic on canvas panel) August 2, 2017. SOLD

Amidst the Waves #3 800
Amidst the Waves #3″ (after Ivan Aivazovsky) (11 x 14″ acrylic on canvas panel) August 2, 2017. SOLD

Amidst the Waves #4 800

Amidst the Waves #4″ (after Ivan Aivazovsky) (11 x 14″ acrylic on canvas panel) August 2, 2017. SOLD

Amidst the Waves #5 800
Amidst the Waves #5″ (after Ivan Aivazovsky) (11 x 14″ acrylic on canvas panel) August 6, 2017. $100 USD plus shipping.

Amidst the Waves #6 800
Amidst the Waves #6″ (after Ivan Aivazovsky) (11 x 14″ acrylic on canvas panel) August 6, 2017. $100 USD plus shipping.

Amidst the Waves #7 800
Amidst the Waves #7″ (after Ivan Aivazovsky) (11 x 14″ acrylic on canvas panel) August 6, 2017. $100 USD plus shipping.

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Amidst the Waves #8″ (after Ivan Aivazovsky) (11 x 14″ acrylic on canvas panel) August 6, 2017. $100 USD plus shipping.

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“Rain” (11 x 14″ acrylic on canvas panel) August 7, 2017. $100 USD plus shipping.

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