Category Archives: Jean Smith paintings

Jean Smith on Political Art

From my post on my regular FaceBook page

Political art. I sometimes think my work [paintings] should be more political. Political in a more overt way.

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Jean Smith self-portrait age 13 (1973)

I started painting portraits (in my room) at the very loaded age of 13. I looked in the mirror and made translations that flew in the face of what models in magazines looked like. My dad, by this point, was no longer an ad agency art director. He was painting large abstracts and watercolor landscapes, and doing freelance commercial art jobs in his studio in the back yard. My mom (an art school graduate) was painting still life from nature in her studio. Neither of them painted portraits at that time.

Fast forward to a point in the early 00s when I took 11 x 17″ laser copies of those teenage self-portraits on tour and put them up at Mecca Normal shows. There was a night at the Smell in LA where I could see them, my teenage faces, from the stage while I was singing songs from The Family Swan album. Songs about my family in those years. I realized (while I was singing) that I had inadvertently found a way to talk to my teenage self, to offer an adult perspective (mine) to her.

In current times, between the deaths of my parents, (with my dad losing his marbles and the difficult nature of being around while this happens, trying to help him and protect my own marbles etc.) it seems like painting faces (and all the historic energy involved here) is prit near the best thing I can be doing. It’s political in the way that finding something that works, something that’s right, fairly early in life is political (self-expression) and then returning to it years later for some of the same reasons is political.

Comment on the post:
I think of pretty much everything I’ve ever seen you do as being political. Maybe the portraits aren’t specifically “political” in content, but the motivation behind them – $100 paintings to avoid having a day job and to work towards a free artist residency program sure is! The art and music and writing and living are all congruent expressions of your political integrity. Or to paraphrase Godard: …not to make “political” films, but to make films politically.” – Steve Peters, the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center, home to the Wayward Music Series, Seattle

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Interview: Jean Smith

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Jes Reyes INTERVIEW: $100 USD paintings, the Free Artist Residency, selling 750 paintings on FaceBook

“When we make things, we find our associates and allies. We find our communities, and everything that comes along with that, including the power to resist and reasons for actual joy.”

“Painting sales above monthly expenses [$1000 USD] go towards opening the Free Artist Residency for Progressive Social Change off the west coast of Canada.”

750 SOLD // 300+ IN STOCK

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CKUT interview

Download or listen to the podcast of this broadcast here (available for 6-8 weeks after broadcast date). If the podcast doesn’t run smoothly (or disappears) I made a YouTube video of it using random Mecca Normal-related footage.

David Lester Mecca Normal

Jean Smith Mecca Normal CKUT

This is Vince Tinguely’s last ever show on CKUT in Montreal! He’s been on the air every Tuesday since 1995… is that even possible? What a great time talking with him for TWO hours this morning (now that’s a proper interview!) interspersed with tracks from our new album Mecca Normal LIVE in Montreal, 1996 (Artoffact Records, 2019).

VIDEO: CKUT interview audio mash-up with Mecca Normal footage.

NEW ALBUM: LIVE in Montreal, 1996 from the Brave New Waves Sessions series on Artoffact Records, 2019

Recorded live in 1996 for broadcast on iconic CBC radio show Brave New Waves.
Jean Smith – vocals
David Lester – guitar
Peter Jefferies – drums

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LP insert

LP insert for the live album in the CBC Brave New Waves series.

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$100 USD paintings (11 x 14″ acrylic on canvas panel) by Jean Smith. For sale online.

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Video: This is Different

Turns out Gina Birch of the Raincoats loves this song! As a huge fan of the Raincoats, this is really exciting! She asked me what the music was (on FaceBook) in a video of my currently available paintings, so I listed all five songs and she said she hadn’t gotten past the first one, that she’d been playing it over and over. I got her email address and sent her the mp3. In our brief email exchange, she said she loves my paintings — says she’s gonna buy one! I’m not gonna try and hide my excitement here! The Raincoats are hugely important to the formation of Mecca Normal. It’s hard to imagine what we’d be doing if the Raincoats’ records weren’t around in 1984 or so, and much earlier for Dave who lived in London in the very early 80s and knew of them then.

It’s an added thrill that I play cymbal on this song. This is the recording session that Kathleen and Billy (of Bikini Kill) dropped by. We were in the basement of the ABC house in Olympia, recording with Pat Maley. Kathleen and I sang something together, but it didn’t go that well. I was in the bathroom as an isolation booth and I didn’t have any lyrics. There was a bottle of Gold Bond powder on the window ledge so I started singing about “the final days of the gold bond” and for at least a few minutes the “band” was gonna be called Mandarin Atomizer until someone mentioned it sounded like an atom bomb in an Asiatic country, and that was that.

Also, I’m not sure which is weirder. Either I mention that Mecca Normal were total rock stars at this time, and that Kathleen and Billy arrived as fans (and friends) or I don’t mention it. Too late.

“This is Different” from a 3-song 7″ on K Records, Vol. XXVII in the International Pop Underground Series, and Jarred Up, an LP compilation of 7″ records (K Records, 1993).

Jean Smith’s $100 USD paintings (11 x 14″ acrylic on canvas panel) from October 19th back to the beginning of the series (January 7, 2016).

“First, oh my word I love these portraits {acrylic on canvas panel} so, so, so much. Second, Canadian rocker turned painter Jean Smith sells these paintings on Facebook for $100 a pop. WHAT? Yes, true story. Are you wondering what you’re still doing here and why you’re not over there buying a whole bunch of these 11×14 beauties? Me too. Here you go… Jean’s Facebook page. You’re welcome.” – The Jealous Curator review 09/17

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Pat Maley, Kathleen and Billy at the Mecca Normal recording session that included “This is Different”

 

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The Jealous Curator

 

 

It was a thrill to have 5 of my paintings featured on The Jealous Curator‘s blog today.

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“First, oh my word I love these portraits {acrylic on canvas panel} so, so, so much. Second, Canadian rocker turned painter Jean Smith sells these paintings on Facebook for $100 a pop. WHAT? Yes, true story. Are you wondering what you’re still doing here and why you’re not over there buying a whole bunch of these 11×14 beauties? Me too. Here you go… Jean’s Facebook page. You’re welcome.” – The Jealous Curator

$100 USD paintings currently available

Singer #4 by Jean Smith throwsilver@hotmail.comNo Hat 200 500No Hat 167 500No Hat #116 by Jean Smith throwsilver@hotmail.comNo Hat #79 by Jean Smith throwsilver@hotmail.com

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Video: In January (long, 2003)

The long version of “In January” from the Janis Zeppelin CD (Smarten Up! Records, 2003) with paintings by Jean Smith.

Carl Wilson’s Globe and Mail review of the shorter version on The Family Swan (2002)

A new protest song is blowin’ in the wind

February 20, 2003

Today’s protest soundtracks require impromptu cacophony and knife fights with broken mirrors. Here’s 10 to march to, but not in formation.

7. Mecca Normal, In January ( The Family Swan, Kill Rock Stars): The veteran Vancouver anarchist duo was prescient last year to name this tense, abstract piece for the time, months later, when the world’s nerve endings would really start to shred. The track captures singer Jean Smith’s and guitarist David Lester’s roiling intensity the way it sounds in small live rooms across the continent — this time with Smith’s stinging tone pushing from the inside against lips that seem almost to be sewn shut.

 

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VIDEO: Orange Sunset

“Orange Sunset” from “Water Cuts My Hands” (K Records, 1991). Jean Smith vocals. David Lester guitar. Video and paintings by Jean Smith.

Orange Sunset

This sunset spreads orange
across the sky
a lid pressing down

In Grand Central Station
pickpockets look for tourist eyes

I am more obvious –
white female
ambassador of lust

He said,
“Come with me
I know
you like to suck and fuck.”

Orange sunset
a lid pressing down

 

 

 

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VIDEO: Not Standing Still

“Not Standing Still” by Mecca Normal from “Water Cuts My Hands” (K Records, 1991). Jean Smith vocals. David Lester guitar.

 

Not Standing Still

You might say,
“Why do I fight?
Change won’t happen.”

Well, not overnight.

Why do you think
we’re standing still?

We’re not standing still.

Change will happen.
Oh yes, it will.

 You might say,
“We’re standing still.”

 We’re not standing still.

 

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VIDEO: Cherry Flowers

I made a video for the Mecca Normal song Cherry Flowers (Dovetail, K Records, 1992) fairly spontaneously. It’s a pretty song about springtime and I did a cherry blossom painting recently, so it occurred to me to connect them. But, as I was putting the elements together, I recalled more about the song’s meaning, which I don’t think I’ve ever been asked about or expressed.

That got me to thinking about all our songs and the various meanings tucked up into them, so I listed all the songs, created a song meaning legend and assigned codes to most of the songs with a note saying that some of the songs need to be reviewed due to their nature, which might be psychological, poetic or complex.

As for Cherry Flowers (1992), it is about the geography of borders, clandestine crossings in vehicles (row boats heading for the united caves of america) laden with cherry flowers. Feel free to interpret what the cherry flowers are (maybe art and music?), but, in the song, “seven men in white shirts watch the needle on the gauge, rise and fall, swing and dive, on the border” using specialized equipment to assess the validity of those attempting to cross.

Painting by Jean Smith “Spring” (11 x 14″ acrylic on canvas panel) $100 USD

Song Meanings

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