Update sent out to the Mecca Normal E-Newsletter list last week. Click here to see the online version.
A brief history of Mecca Normal in TV news clips and live footage to give background and context to Jeans Smith’s ongoing $100 painting series.
“I made this for Dan Seward’s Bunnybrains event during TBA: 16 at PNCA (Pacific Northwest College of Art) 511 Gallery in Portland, Oregon on September 15, 2016.” – Jean Smith
Part of Makeup on Empty Space, curated by Kristan Kennedy. Co-presented with PNCA’s 511 Gallery & Director of Center for Contemporary Art and Culture, Mack McFarland.
“No Hat #79” (acrylic on canvas board 11 x 14”) August 21, 2016. SOLD
Below, in the video, all the paintings in Jean Smith’s ongoing series of $100 paintings. As of September 3, almost 80 of the nearly 170 paintings have sold. Paintings currently available
Music by Mecca Normal (Jean Smith and David Lester), from the album Empathy for the Evil (2014, M’Lady’s Records) “Wasn’t Said” and “Between Livermore and Tracy” (both produced by KRAMER who also plays bass on these tracks)
At the very end (after the credits) Jean gives a brief visual demonstration of how Mecca Normal got started.
Mecca Normal‘s “Man Thinks Woman” (1987) was recently (August 8, 2016) included in Pitchfork’s story of feminist punk in 33 songs with a great write-up by Douglas Wolk
“Mecca Normal break rules like they never noticed them in the first place. The Vancouver-based duo of singer Jean Smith and guitarist David Lester are anarchist-feminist activists and constant experimentalists, implying a rhythm section with negative space alone. Always an intense presence onstage, they’ve become the most tenacious of D.I.Y. road warriors, touring and recording for 32 years now. In the early ’90s, they popped up on most of the biggest American indie-rock labels (Sub Pop, K, Matador); by their 25th anniversary, they were on the road with a performance-and-lecture project called “How Art & Music Can Change the World.”
Smith’s lyrics often foreground her political perspective; their anthem “Man Thinks ‘Woman,'” released in 1987, started out as a barbed dissection of gender normativity: “Man thinks ‘woman’ when he talks to me/Something not quite right.” The song kept expanding its radius from there, encompassing both bitter poetics and a disarmingly funny account of a drunken makeout gone weird. Kathleen Hanna has cited Smith as an early inspiration: “When I saw her,” she told The Fader, “I was just like, that’s it. I’m done. I’m sold.” – Douglas Wolk
Knowing When to Stop: the Painting of No Hat #82 (14 minutes)
After making this video — which did not go as smoothly as it could have — I found the next paintings (3 of them) went much smoother. I didn’t end up taking them to the sink more than once and there was far less re-working and painting over.
Talking, video-ing and recording altered the painting process. So, really, the video represents some of the least smooth work, but I’m very happy with the final painting and I think it makes an interesting document.
Not talking – or using that part of the brain – is one of the things that happens when I paint. I need to get better at doing a demo – painting and talking. I may continue to videos and fine-tune demonstration components for classroom events.
I’m not surprised that “No Hat #83, #84 and #85” (posted below) flowed beautifully as a result of making the video.
“No Hat #82” (acrylic on canvas board 11 x 14”) August 27, 2016. $100 USD plus shipping.
Painted after making the video
“No Hat #83” (acrylic on canvas board 11 x 14”) August 29, 2016. $100 USD plus shipping.
“No Hat #84” (acrylic on canvas board 11 x 14”) August 30, 2016. $100 USD plus shipping.
“No Hat #85” (acrylic on canvas board 11 x 14”) August 31, 2016. $100 USD plus shipping.
“Knowing When to Stop: the Painting of No Hat #82” (14 minutes)
“No Hat #82” (acrylic on canvas board 11 x 14”) August 27, 2016. $100 USD plus shipping.
“Paul” (acrylic on canvas board 11 x 14″) $100 USD plus shipping.
“Maria” (acrylic on paper 11 x 14″). $100 USD plus shipping.
“Eileen” (acrylic on canvas board 11 x 14″) $100 USD plus shipping.
“Mike Dean” (acrylic on paper 11 x 14″). $100 USD plus shipping.
Vol. 389 of Normal History (September 3, 2016) Jean Smith and David Lester’s weekly column in Magnet Magazine
The Dark Side of Maria from Mecca Normal’s album The Observer (Kill Rock Stars, 2006)
Song slivers arrive in shipping and receiving, between photo-cutter roar and dry-mounting rumble. With my mind, I add the sounds together and turn the nearly inaudible radio into Marvin Gaye. Regardless of what’s playing I hear Sexual Healing. Sexual, sexual healing.
Paul comes to look out the window. Wincing at the brightness, he fingers the paper white orchid. I turn away. He asks me, “What’s your favorite movie?”
“Harold and Maude,” I say. “It’s about a suicidal young guy who falls in love with an eccentric old woman.”
“OK. What’s your second favorite movie?”
“Picnic At Hanging Rock,” I say. “Australian school girls lost in the outback.”
Paul lays his head on the postage scale.
“Ten pounds ten ounces,” I say.
On coffee break, Maria talks about her roommate. “He’s white. He’s single. He’s 50, but he’s circumcised. Jean, Jean, Jean, do you prefer cut or uncut?”
In my mind I see the penises of recent dalliances, dicks and cocks of old relationships. Cut, uncut. Cut, uncut. Maria and the others are waiting for my answer, for my preference.
Maria says, “Uncut is ugly.”
Eileen says, “How do you know?”
Maria says, “I’ve seen a photo.”
The dark side of Maria. We are nibbling on Mike Dean’s banana bread. Mike is the Jethro Bodine handyman at the photo lab. He’s been phoning his mother across three time zones to get her recipes. He brings baked goods to work on the bus, triple plastic-wrapped. Pies, cookies, biscuits. He wants a reaction. He wants a reaction from the dark side of Maria.
The paintings featured are from Jean Smith’s recent, ongoing series of $100 paintings – 60 of which sold between February and July, 2016.
Yesterday I made an elaborate plan to meet the buyer of a second painting in a small park near her house in East Vancouver. I set the location because it’s near a store that sells coffee grinders. I suggested we make the transaction with many furtive glances and, that as she handed me the money, she was do to it in that way that dealers (not art) pass money that looks totally obvious. Like, who hands someone money while looking in the another direction? Only dealers (not art).
I headed off a bit early, to take a look at the coffee grinders first, but as I was walking towards the main street, I saw a woman walking towards me with black boots, blonde hair and heavy-framed glasses. She looked like someone I might know, but I am often fooled these days by certain types of people who look like the same types from 25 years ago. I’ll catch a glimpse of someone in their 20s and think I recognize them, until I realize that the person I thought it was would be in their 40s or 50s now.
I crossed the street and realized that it was the person I was going to meet. She said she’d been to the bank.
“Are we headed this way?” I said gesturing towards both the park and her house. We could have just done the deal then and there, on that street corner. I had the painting, she had the money. But we started walking.
In our email exchange, she’d mentioned my coming to her house for the transaction and I had thought about suggesting a cafe, but really, some of these meetings have taken more than 4 hours because we get talking and so, I’ve decided to meet in parks. To speed up transactions. The less I leave this room, the better. People coming here? No.
We got to the little park and I said, “Shall we go over to that bench and do our performance art piece as planned?”
She laughed. She’s an artist. “Why don’t you just come to the house?”
“It does seem like I’m destined to come to the house, doesn’t it?”
We continued up the street. I hadn’t anticipated that when I stepped inside I’d see my painting, the one she bought a couple of weeks ago, framed and hanging in a primo position in a room filled with art. It was a total thrill!
I was given a tour of the place – mostly of the art. Her pieces – sculptural, found object, textile, drawings and paintings – and art by many other people. It was everywhere!
We were upstairs in her studio, near a window facing the back yard, when I saw two people talking in the alley.
“You’ve got some action out there,” I said.
She looked out and said, “He lives in the basement. He used to be in Guns and Roses.”
What does a person say to that? Maybe I said – really?
When we came back downstairs, it was time for me to bring the painting out of my bag. She admired it and laid it flat on top of the piano.
“I’ll be watching out for more before you put the prices up,” she said.
“I’m not planning on putting the prices up,” I said. “It’s too predictable. I may do some larger ones on wood and see what else I can make happen, but I like painting at this size and making them available on FaceBook. As long as there’s interest in the $100 paintings, I’ll keep doing it this way.”
She said something about the situation being a perfect storm.
“A perfect storm? How so?” I asked.
The size, the price and the personalities you’re creating * – was basically what she said.
So… maybe it’s good to go out and talk to people, to hear what they have to say. To see some art. To talk about art. Yes.
“No Hat #27” (acrylic on paper, 11 x 14”) May 22, 2016. SOLD
“No Hat #34” (acrylic on paper, 11 x 14”) June 6, 2016. SOLD
Paintings from my ongoing $100 series strung together in a video with me talking (somewhat abstractly) about being the daughter of very emotional (volatile) painters. Featuring my thoughts on an early introduction to the concept of quality, the importance of art, and my indoctrination into believing that paintings are about human interactions (if not themselves essentially part of those same interactions).
I am best known as the singer in the underground rock duo Mecca Normal. I also write novels. The long hours spent building characters with words informs how I paint faces.
Paintings are posted on FaceBook first. They can sell very quickly.
Follow me on FaceBook
This monologue touches on my early indoctrination into “the emotional realms of painting”. The paintings featured are from my recent, ongoing series of $100 paintings “The Hat”, “No Hat”, “Angry Woman in Rock”, “Kabuki”, “Y-Front” and “The Singer”.
It all started with “The Hat” series in January, 2016. I posted the first one on my FaceBook page and it sold that same day. Hours later, someone was offering me money in advance for the next one! Since then, paintings in this series have been purchased by painting instructors from the University of British Columbia and the Art Institute of Chicago, a painter whose work was exhibited in the Whitney Biennial, 2014 in New York City, and by a critic for Artfourm Magazine.
Paintings from this series are posted by month
$100 paintings from February, 2016
$100 paintings from March, 2016
$100 paintings in April, 2016
$100 paintings in May, 2016
$100 paintings in June, 2016
“Jean Smith is a f***ing genius. She is one half of the long running avant garde band Mecca Normal and she is a published novelist. She is unsentimental, but her work always leaves me with my own bruised longing exposed.” – Molly Zuckerman-Hartung, an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Art Institute of Chicago whose paintings were included in the 2014 Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial. Molly bought “The Hat #24” in late February. She also told me to raise my prices!
“The Hat #24” (acrylic on paper, 11 x 14”) by Jean Smith