The duo have done just that in spades, landing the first solo painting exhibit from legendary singer-songwriter and activist Joan Baez, whose “Mischief Makers,” a series of acrylic paintings of some of the most famous “risk-taking revolutionaries,” runs Sept. 1 to Oct. 1 at the Seager Gray Gallery at 108 Throckmorton Avenue.
“We’re thrilled to be able to showcase this beautiful work from Joan,” Seager says, noting that her gallery has hosted a number of events this year for organizations that have “might have been negatively impacted by the current administration,” like Canal Alliance and Marin City schools. “No one has walked the walk and talked the talk more consistently than Joan Baez. For Suzanne and I, Joan with her dedication to nonviolence and equal rights is the perfect person to put forth this message.”
Baez leaves no doubt where she drew the inspiration for these paintings.
“The choice of subjects for this … comes as a reaction to the collapse of decency and moral standards which is currently being made obscenely evident in our government and its supporters,” says Baez. “In stark contrast, the ‘Mischief Makers’ are people who are willing to accept suffering, but never inflict it, to die for their cause, but never kill for it, and keep a sense of mischief through it all.”
Long before the exhibit opens, “Mischief Makers” has left no doubt that Baez’s star power and her focus on agents of social change is a massive draw. Seager says that all of the exhibit’s paintings have already been sold, a boon to all involved, particularly Carecen SF, the organization to which Baez is donating a portion of the proceeds. Carecen SF is dedicated to assisting Latino and other immigrants, as well as under-resourced families in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The paintings span a veritable who’s who of activists who brought about social change through nonviolent action, including Martin Luther King Jr., Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Czech Velvet Revolution leader Vaclav Havel, Malala Yousafzai, Bob Dylan, Congressman John Lewis, farm worker heroine Dolores Huerta, folk legend and activist Harry Belafonte, poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, spiritual leader Ram Dass, the Dalai Lama, among many others. The exhibit also includes Mimi Fariña, who founded the famed Corte Madera-based Bread and Roses organization, as well as civil rights leader Reverend William Barber, Vietnam draft resistance leader and author David Harris, and Native American medicine woman and activist Marilyn Youngbird.
Baez also includes a portrait of herself as a young woman, based on a photo taken by acclaimed photographer Yousuf Karsh at Struggle Mountain a compound in the Los Altos Hills that was a haven for resistors of the Vietnam War draft, according to the exhibit catalog. Baez says that when Karsh arrived at the mountain retreat, he was “aghast” to see that Baez had cut her long black locks into a “a more utilitarian bob.” In painting her throwback self-portrait, “I gave myself my hair back,” she says.
The Seager Gray exhibition comes during a landmark year for Baez, who was recently inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In her induction speech (see below for full speech), Baez said, “Let us together repeal and replace brutality and make compassion a priority.”
After the speech, Baez performed “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” followed by “Deportee (Plane Wreck At Los Gatos)” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” with longtime friends Mary Chapin Carpenter and Indigo Girls.