Joan Baez Art Show Opens in Mill Valley

In an iconic career spanning six decades, Joan Baez has conquered several artistic worlds. 

She’s a “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” inductee who helped define the coffeehouse folk scene in the 1960s, and her musical spirit is matched by an activist mentality that has put her on the forefront of major nonviolent social movements since she walked arm-in-arm with Martin Luther King Jr. in Mississippi civil rights marches and spent time in jail for protesting the Vietnam War.

In the last few years, another side of Baez’s creative force has emerged in the form of solo art exhibitions that showcase her portrait paintings and drawings of some of her personal heroes and famous friends who’ve brought about positive social change over the last half-century.

Baez’s first solo exhibition, “Mischief Makers,” debuted at Mill Valley’s Seager Gray Gallery in 2017. Now, Baez returns to the gallery with a new batch of art for “Mischief Makers 2,” once again showcasing her portraits of people making the world a better place.

“I hope this new collection of portraits inspires you,” Baez says in her artist statement. “Maybe it will encourage you to go out and, in the words of the late Congressman John Lewis, ‘make good trouble.’”

“Mischief Makers 2” is open to view by appointment through Feb. 14 at Seager Gray Gallery as well as online, and the gallery will host a live streaming art reception for the show on Saturday, Jan. 9, which also marks Baez’s 80th birthday. The virtual reception will include an interview with Baez, a virtual tour of the show as it hangs in the gallery and other activities.

Following in the artistic footsteps of her debut solo exhibit, “Mischief Makers 2” features a new cast of social justice activists, progressive political figures and other notable historic faces from the worlds of literature, sports, music, environmentalism, spirituality and the counterculture.

One such painting is Baez’s portrait of Vice President–elect Kamala Harris, which went viral when she posted it on social media with the word “Badass” as part of her get-out-the-vote campaign for the 2020 presidential election.

Her portrait of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the doctor at the head of the nation’s Covid-19 response, also ignited the internet when she posted the painting online and added the word “Trust” alongside the image, offering a strong rebuke of right-wing political attacks on Fauci.

The new show also features portraits of figures including singer-songwriter Patti Smith, teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, filmmaker Michael Moore, former NFL quarterback and activist Colin Kaepernick, hippie icon Wavy Gravy and Pulitzer Prize–winning author and activist Alice Walker.

As she did in the first “Mischief Makers” exhibit, Baez includes a self-portrait. Limited edition prints of the self-portrait as well as portraits of Bob Dylan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Fauci and Emma Gonzalez will also be available and on display in the gallery.

“Mischief Makers 2” runs through Feb. 14 at Seager Gray Gallery, 108 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley, and online at seagergray.com. The show’s virtual reception takes place on Saturday, Jan. 9, at 5:30pm. $15. bit.ly/JoanBaezLiveStream.
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Charlie Swanson
Charlie Swanson is a North Bay native and an arts and music writer and editor who has covered the local scene since 2014.
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