Joan Baez talks about new book — and life’s journey — at Kepler’s

by Linda Hubbard on April 30, 2023

Joan Baez was at Kepler’s on Friday evening (April 28) in conversation with customer service manager Brittany Caine talking about her book Am I Pretty When I Fly: An Album of Upside Drawings. The appearance was a coming home of sorts for the locally-based singer, who stopped performing in 2019. She reminded the audience that her mother worked at Kepler’s and that store founder Roy Kepler had once been her business manager.

“It was located across the street from here,” she said. “It was there that I met Ira Sandperl. I was never much of a book reader, but it was a great place to hangout and get to know people.

“It was a hub for political activism. It was where Ira and I formed the Institute for the Study of Nonviolence. That was 60 years ago!”

The sketches in the book are on reoccurring themes such as politics, relationships, women, animals and family. Joan begins drawing upside down — often using her non-dominant hand — without any preconceived notion of where the lines might lead her.

“When I finally turn it over, it is as big a surprise to me as anybody else!”

What may have been news to many in the audience is that Joan’s artistic talent has long extended beyond her voice. She explained that she started with acrylics while touring many years ago.

“There was an area on the tour bus for doing make up,” she recalled. “That was the area I’d use acrylic paints on little canvases. I’d do it until it was time to go on stage and sing. Then I’d go back and keep painting.”

On the intersection of art and music, she reflected: “I used to think that in order for something to be really beautiful it had to be political… In my own life, what’s made sense and given it richness is that I was able to do two things at the same time, with the art and the music. It’s when I’ve always been strongest and happiest and most creative.”

Is art inherently political? “It ends up that in order to make any real social change you have to be willing to take a risk and that’s hard for people,” she said.

Joan’s next project is a book of poetry. “We don’t have a title for it yet,” she said, “but it’s poetry I wrote in the ’90s. I also want to do a coffee table book of my paintings.”

Her advice for today’s young people: “Make good trouble!”

Photo by Robb Most (c) 2023


One Comment

Ardan Michael Blum May 21, 2023 at 10:15 pm

What an amazing guest speaker!

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