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by Jim Johanson:
Saskatoon is vanishing under the clouds now, our pint-sized jet rushing toward cruising altitude on the first leg of my trip back to California. The souvenir shops were all out of Saskatoon snowdomes, a serious problem; I'd promised to bring one home. Distressing as this is, the snowdome problem is about as far as I'll get with complaints about the opening weekend for Joni's"voices" exhibit.
The opening of "voices: Joni Mitchell" at the Mendel Gallery was a smashing success for everyone involved: for Joni and her fans, for art lovers, for the Mendel, for Saskatoon, for Canada, North America… all right, I'll stop. It's hard to not get carried away. This was an experience that left me and every Joniphile I ran into along the way delighted and grateful.
Joni's better known voice, her music, looms large from the beginning, setting the tone at the entrance of the cavernous main hall. In "shuffle" mode on the CD player, hand picked by Joni for the exhibit: Both Sides Now, Hejira, Hits, Taming the Tiger, and Turbulent Indigo.
The figurative paintings greeting visitors at the front door of the exhibit give way to more abstract works as the trip to the back of the main hall progresses.
Several of the abstract paintings are quite large, approximately six feet square; "Scuba" dominates the rear of the room, hanging on a freestanding wall. The largest work present, the familiar cover painting for "Wild Things Run Fast," hangs outside the exhibit over a railing that conceals a staircase to the basement. The painting must be at least 12 feet wide, 4½ or 5 feet high.
As beautiful and affecting as these pictures are on the screen of a Web page or in print, their power isn't completely evident until you're looking at the real thing. The fine details in the brushwork, the sensitivity to color and light, the beauty of the lines, everything comes together that much more clearly when you're looking at the work "live." The difference is truly striking.
Viewing Joni's artwork while listening to her music made"voices" a total immersion experience for me. As I walked through the exhibit, I felt like I'd been dropped into a newly built "Joniland" pavilion at Disneyland. Joni's paintings tell stories, just like her music does, and invite you in to invent your own. Experiencing both simultaneously is a breathtaking experience, and incredibly fun.
Friday afternoon, a podium was set up in front of "Scuba" at the abstract end of the main hall for Joni's press conference. As we waited to be admitted into the hall, a smiling Joni arrived, wearing a beige suit with matching hat, waving to friends as she hurried to get ready for the conference.
We were allowed in shortly thereafter, and had a few minutes for a very short "sneak preview" of the exhibit before Joni appeared at the podium with curator Gilles Hebert.
The first question: "Are you nervous?" A surprising question, I thought. Did this reporter see something I missed? Joni didn't look nervous to me.
"No, I'm not nervous!" came the answer. "This is pleasant. What would I have to be nervous about?"
The question and answer session continued for over an hour, each word gobbled up by the battalion of camera and recording equipment hastily erected in the middle of the room. Joni often reflected on memories of her childhood and events in her life at the time some of the pictures were created. I'll eventually have a transcript of the press conference on JoniMitchell.com, but be forewarned: It's a lot of typing so it may take a while!
When the press conference concluded there was more time to view the rest of the exhibit. Walking behind the free standing wall with "Scuba" on it, the entrance to a corridor that runs from left to right and forms the rear of the exhibit appears. 20 of Joni's famous photo collages are here; the "Night Ride Home" cover is part of this series. The composites create stunning textures as Joni places herself into the scenes she's viewing.
On the far wall of the corridor hang four of the "Delirium Pictures," created while Joni was hospitalized in 1977. She remembers very little of what went on at the time she did these pictures, due to high fevers. She produced remarkable works nevertheless, vibrantly colored, some made even brighter by the use of gold foil.
Another exhibition area, running parallel to the main hall, is divided into three sections of mostly smaller canvasses, displaying a wealth of Joni's best known work. Entering into the rear of this room, "Both Sides Now #1" and "Both Sides Now #2" (the front and back covers of the CD) anchor one rear corner. The TTT cover painting and the famous "Van Gogh" painting from the cover of Turbulent Indigo occupy two other corners.
Charles Valentino, well known to many of Joni's fans from his appearance in her "Painting With Words and Music" video, tells an interesting story about the portrait Joni painted of him. The photograph used for the painting was taken as he walked along the Pacific Coast on an unusually cold day; the photographer saw a huge wave coming up behind him but didn't tell Val about it, apparently wanting to get a few shots of him with "the wet look." It might look great, but it was mightily cold. Val was none too pleased about being surprised by a wall of cold water as the picture was taken. Brrr… ah, the things people go through for art!
A series of early felt tip drawings from the late 1960s and early 1970s cover a wall toward the front of this room, across from an entry back to the main hall. Some of these drawings are self portraits, some are of familiar friends such as Neil Young.
I couldn't think of a better place for this exhibit than lovely Saskatoon, or a nicer time of year for it. Joni was completely at ease here in her hometown, close to family and friends. A step away from the snobbish art world and the inevitable media overkill that would have accompanied her opening elsewhere. The Canadian prairie informs much of her work; what better place to show it?
The off-the-beaten-path location also gave Joni the freedom to be more accessible, mostly without being mobbed; Joniphiles were abuzz about "Joni sightings" throughout the weekend. People repeatedly ran into her on the street! Joni's fans are a unique and wonderful group of people—intelligent, open and welcoming. I had the privilege of meeting many in Saskatoon: JoniMitchell.com readers who came up to introduce themselves, members of the Joni Mitchell Discussion List I've corresponded with as well as new folks from the list I met for the first time, and long-awaited face-to-face meetings with friends and supporters without whom this website would have collapsed in a heap months ago. I consider myself very lucky to know you all.
The opening ceremonies for the exhibit were preceded by a private reception for family and friends, opening with a few short remarks by the show's corporate sponsors. Joni spent nearly the whole reception generously signing hundreds of autographs, which looked too much like work as far as I was concerned. I was hoping she'd be able to relax and chat casually with people a bit more, but finally I gave in and asked her to sign my book. We had an enjoyable conversation during which, among other things, we talked about Wally and she thanked me for continuing the site after his death. She drew a picture in my book of the Indian wheel of emotion, sensitivity, intellect and clarity that I found so interesting when Wally and I visited her in October.
Wally would have LOVED "voices." In addition to the excitement of the exhibit, my trip to Saskatoon has also been a very personal journey for me on many levels, as I continue to work my way through the loss of my best pal, the creator of this site and founder of Joni's Internet Community. Joni recognized this, and treated me with kindness and sensitivity. Her humanity is still very much intact.
A few minutes later I got to talk briefly with Joni's mother, Myrtle. I noticed a family resemblance that her mother said was even more pronounced in years gone by. I'll always be sorry I didn't get to meet her father, Bill. From what I heard he was a very friendly guy, every bit the proud papa. Joni's parents are one of the main reasons"voices" had it's opening in Saskatoon: "I wanted my parents to be able to attend a retrospective of my work," Joni said. "They were always very encouraging."
Fred Mendel, or "Grandpa Mendel" as Joni called him, was another reason. She credited her first exposure to great works of art by artists such as Picasso and Matisse to visits to his home as a teenager. He eventually founded the museum that now bears his name.
Down a flight of stairs in back of the museum, a huge tent had been set up on the riverbank for the occasion, serving food and drinks to guests. Joni's music was playing here too. I wish events like this happened more often! Later, after the opening ceremony, Joni attempted to come out to the tent to socialize with everybody; I admired her courage for braving the adoring crowd. Unsurprisingly, the crush of well-wishers was too dangerous and she had to be whisked away to safer surroundings.
I just had enough time to grab a quick drink before heading to the front of the museum for the opening ceremonies. I managed to find a place to stand where I could see what was going on, sort of, behind the sound system board. The street in front of the gallery had been closed to accomodate the crowd, estimated at 2,500.
"Ho hum, welcome to another opening at the Mendel Art Gallery. We always get good crowds," Gilles joked, getting the ceremony under way. The civic pride was palpable as a parade of speakers moved to the podium, among them Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow and Saskatoon Mayor Henry Dayday; granddaughter of Fred Mendel and exhibit sponsor Camille Mitchell (no relation to Joni); and speakers for corporate sponsors Investors Group, Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan and Sasktel.
Joni came to the podium to wild applause at the end of the ceremony, just before the first 500 people were allowed in to view the exhibit. "I'm so glad to see you all, and I hope you enjoy the work," said Joni. "They say a picture is worth a thousand words and I've got 87 pictures in there," she told the crowd, doublechecking her math with those standing nearby.
That would mean I'd have to type 87,000 well chosen words to give you any kind of idea what Joni's "voices" exhibit is like. You're much better off buying a ticket to Saskatoon and seeing this wonderful event for yourself. Pick up a Saskatoon snowdome for me while you're there, OK?
(Note: Joni did not perform at this event)
Saskatoon cub reporter Coyote Rick here with an early report from the center
of the universe for all Joni Mitchell (the painter) fans.
Saskatoon is a lovely, gem of a city situated on the river. It carries the
moniker of the "Bridge City," but this morning I also saw the word Hub City,
which the shopowner told me is another name for Saskatoon. I like it here
because you can walk everywhere! And I have...
Okay, enough travelogue. On to the meat. It is a sunny day, warm and
delightful. Mary and I met early afternoon at the Mendel to get the lay of
the land. My fifteen minute walk from the hotel was interesting. There is a
jazz festival also taking place with venues all over the city. Today's
installment was in a park near a historic hotel sitting on the river's edge.
I was in a hurry, so didn't get to stop and listen to the music, Mary was
I waited for Mary in the foyer of the gallery. Although all except the
gallery shop is closed until tomorrow evening, the gallery is ALL ABOUT JONI!
When you walk in the door, in the foyer, as an appetizer, you see the oil
that graced the cover of Wild Things Run Fast. It's huge - about ten foot in
length, I would guess. It has a place of honor and definitely gets you in the
mood for what's inside. Although the main gallery is tightly shuttered, I
did get a peak inside as one of the workers held the door open and just stood
there admiring the work. We have a real treat in store. It's beautifully
I was happy to see Mary again. We last met at another joyous occasion, the
Chicago BSN concert. We sat in the coffee shop of the gallery deciding which
questions we would ask the gallery officials for the first post on the JMDL.
Unannounced, we simply asked if we could speak to the communications director
we had been communicating with via email. He was away for lunch, but his
able assistant immediately came upstairs.
Lovely and accommodating Natalie greeted us like old friends. "I am so happy
you have made the trip. This is very exciting for us," were her first words.
She then responded to our questions by telling us that tomorrow's
festivities will begin with the Premier of Saskatchewan, Roy Romandow (sp?)
will officially open the exhibit, followed by the mayor of Saskatoon, Henry
Dayday. This will commence at 8:00 P.M. Joni and her parents will be there,
of course, but it was still uncertain if Joni would speak. Earlier, at 3:00
P.M. will be a press conference, followed by a VIP reception at 6:00 P.M.
The exhibit and gallery shop will open at 8:30P.M. A cool professional, she
dodged my somewhat subtle hints for tickets to the reception. However, rumor
has it that one website manager will be there. ;-) She then took us to see
the area in which the reception will be held and explained traffic flow, etc.
She said all will be accommodated since they are allowing 700 people at a
time in the gallery. What a great person we met. Another note of interest.
One long time employee of the gallery told me it has never been closed in his
25 years of employment!
Our next stop was the gallery shop. BSN was playing on the sound system. A
nice little shop with lots of the usual art books, cards, and gifts but also
a fine collection of local pottery and art glass. The shopkeeper was
delightful. They have (so far) a small table of Joni CDs (not all, CMIARS,
WTRF, and -EGAD- DED were missing), the lyrics book is there, and the exhibit
poster. The posters are the painting gracing the TI cover with Joni's
signature across the top. Very nice. Memorabilia was printed in shockingly
low production numbers. Only 4,000 posters were printed and 1,500 were used
for exhibit promotions leaving only 2,500 for sale. The touted exhibit
catalogues were not yet delivered! Again, there were only 4,000 printed.
1,000 were due today, with the remainder being delivered tomorrow. Just in
time distribution I think it is called. They have the BSN front and back
signed lithos, but they are very pricey - $450 Canadian signed and $300
Mary and I marveled over the cover art of the Clouds CD which shows the
Bessborough Hotel and the Saskatoon River. It's interesting to see them live
while comparing them to the cover art. JM sure shows her roots.
Although we strategically timed our visit to the Mendel to perhaps see Joni,
no such luck. However, in a late breaking news item, it seems one of our
traveling listmembers did have the honor at 3:15PM. I won't steal any
thunder on that one.
There have been a few other encounters. Last night, I had dinner with a guy
I met through the Saskatoon discussion list. He is a musician with the
Canadian military band (I know I screwed that up) and was playing throughout
town all week. He met Joni in the elevator of her hotel yesterday afternoon.
His band was playing in the park near her hotel and she commented that she
liked their music, having heard it from her suite above. After he told her
he knew about the gallery exhibit, she told him she was exhausted from
helping set up the show, and just wanted to get back to rest. He said she
was sweet and seemed otherwise happy.
The shopkeeper at the Mendel said the same. That Joni seemed relaxed,
although is self conscious about her art. She has been in and out of the
gallery all week and loves walking along the river in her big, floppy hat.
She also told the shopkeeper how much she was enjoying the concurrent jazz
Well, folks, there's more, but my fingers are tired and I am off to meet Mary
for a walk around the Broadway district of town. We were turned on to this
district by the ever helpful Natalie.
Please forgive typos and poorly constructed sentences.
Arrived in Saskatoon yesterday afternoon. Our hotel, the Bessborough, is
right on the river, with the Broadway Bridge out our window. A very
picturesque city. Headed down to the Mendel to pick up some posters of the
event, and met Penny as we were walking there. She relayed how she had met
Joni earlier at the Mendel, and had given her a hug. Wow!! It seems surreal
that we are actual here, in Joni's hometown.
Continued on, and found the Mendel, which is a beautiful gallery. Everything
was closed up except the gift shop and the lobby. The picture of the Wild
Things Run Fast cover was in the lobby, so we had a chance to see that. It is
GORGEOUS!!! And HUGE!!! 5' by 12' at least! So..on to the gift shop where I
picked up many extra posters for the Jonifest giveaway, and other things.
;-) 3 others were in the gift shop at the time, and as I was ringing
everything up, one of them said, "Are those ALL for you?" "No, I said. See, I
belong to a Joni Mitchell discussion list...." and immediately the other 2
yelled, "ASHARA????? Is that really THE Ashara?" LOL!! Giggling, I found out
that it was Rick from Vancouver and John from Chicago.
Finishing up and on our way out, talking a mile a minute, all of a sudden we
saw Joni, also on her way out. We had a brief encounter, and she was very,
very gracious. Luckily, John's partner, Richard, had a camera with him, and
all of us got a picture with Joni. We didn't have much time with her, truly I
only had enough time to introduce myself and say that I had traveled all the
way from Boston for this, but it was very special to see the Lady in person.
Today we are all meeting for lunch, and then on to the Mendel for the
opening. More to follow soon!
Before I left Boston, I received an e-mail saying that the Canadian Broadcast
Company, (CBC) wanted to interview people that had come from a long distance
for this opening. They asked if I would be willing to go on "live" (YIKES!!)
radio, and give my thoughts about the exhibit. Of course I said yes, and I
was contacted yesterday when I got to Saskatoon. The really cool news is that
the program will be aired live on the internet on Monday morning, starting at
7:15 AM Saskatoon time, (which I believe is the same as Central time in the
US, but you'd better check to be sure) so, any of you that would like to hear
it, can just tune in via the internet!! I just think that is SO cool!! At
7:15 AM, their Arts reporter will talk about his views of the exhibit, and at
8:40 AM, I will be interviewed along with Rick Hobbs (Angelino Coyote) and I
think some others. Of course, if anyone has a chance to tape it, that would
John Calimee here. With the gracious help of Coyote and his lap top, I am
able to send you this Mendel update from the Quality Inn here in grand
Saskatoon! Thanks, Coyote. So, on the short, here's what's up so far.
Stopped by the Mendel first when I got into town. It's a beautiful gallery
with a glass and steel two story Conservatory connected to the gallery. The
exhibition space was closed, but one could still wander the lobby, gift and
coffee shops. In this foyer is hanging the WTRF painting. Very nice painting.
It's huge. At least six feet across. It's made of two panels. The colors are
matte. The place was obviously buzzing, but no one from the list was around
and we felt in the way. So Rich and I decided to take a walk along the river.
The paths are lush and overgrown. The Donald and Joan paintings were
evidently taken from these spots. On the way, we passed two women from Ohio
who noticed my Joni shirt and stopped to say hi. It turns out they had just
bumped into Joni by accident at the Bessbourough.
So the two of us buzzed over to the hotel. We waited there for a few hours,
then decided to walk the town. Well, we end up in a diner having fish and
chips and this kid, college age 'frat' boy type starts chatting us up. He too
noticed the shirt. It turns out he is the staff photographer for the Star
Register and had just come from the Mendel taking photos of Joni during the
time we were in the hotel. Argggghhhh!!!! He suggested we head back to the
Mendel. So, zoom. We are off to the Mendel again.
Again no one in sight so I wander about trying to be inconspicuous amid all
the bustle going on. After an hour or so the gallery guards and shop staff
are becoming friendly and enjoying my buzz about the whole thing. They begin
to whisper that Joni is indeed in the building overseeing final details, and
if I were patient she would pop out for a smoke. Well, I had worked
feverishly for week painting and writing this huge letter to give to her as a
gift. And stupid me did not bring it with. So I send Rich back to the motel
to pick up the 'letter' while I wait by the door. So, I am breathlessly
waiting, hoping he will get back. And sure enough, no sonner than he is out
the door, one of the gallery people begins nodding to me to come back into
the gift shop.
They drag me into the shop and there she is with her back turned to me,
checking out the display set up for her. Mike turns her around and says,
"Joan. There is someone her I'd like you to meet. He's come all the way from
Chicago and he's a big fan of yours." Joni this is John. John, Joni.
OH, MY GOD! SHE IS SOOOOOO BEAUTIFUL!!! VERRRY GRACIOUS AND WARM. I began
warbling about my letter fiasco and how much I wanted to have this gift to
give her. She saw my nervous frustration and ended it by giving me a very
sweet hug. (!!!!!)
So, Joni heads back into the gallery and Rich returns with my letter. I pull
Mike aside and he kindly offers to take the letter in to hand to her. He was
going to take me in and allow me to do it, but some woman intercepts us, very
perfunctorly says NO ONE can go in. She takes the letter and says she will
deliver it. I return to vulture mode and wander the gallery.
I connect with Rick from Vancouver and then, Ashara. Well we spend a long
time engaging in hellos and info on the show. At one moment, Rich says to me,
"There she is again." And there is Joni heading out the front door carrying
my letter. (!!!).
Well, we run outside and intercept her. We say hello and get our photos taken
That was thursday. Yesterday. Tonight is the opening. I will tell more, and
in more detail as time goes on. But this has begun in a more awesome way than
I ever imagined. --I will turn the batton over to Coyote now. Best to
everyone. Wish you were all here. More info to come!!!
I just got back from the Press Conference, which I got THE WHOLE THING on
video!!!! As well as the whole exhibit of paintings!!! You guys are in for a
treat!!! I'll tell you, I "must" be living right, because I was also
approached to be interviewed on CBC TV!!!!!! So, please, please, any
Canadians out there, can you tape CBC tonight at 10PM The National??? It will
either be on that, or on the Saturday report, not sure what time, but maybe
you can find out. You should tape both if you can, because the reporter
wasn't sure which it will be on. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!
Cub reporter Coyote Rick from the field. Tonight was perfect. As I told
Joni tonight, I expected nothing less. Yep, I spoke with her twice today.
The exhibit and she were wonderful.
The JMDL gang gathered tonight between 6PM and 7PM expecting throngs of
people to crowd the entrance to the gallery for the 8PM commencement of
festivities. There was a pleasently sized crowd, but I wouldn't expect it
to be more than 1,000 tops. Maybe our crack crowd estimator Rick
(Rick+Susan) has a better estimate. At any rate, it was FAR less than
reported. Even in today's local paper headlines screamed that 5,000 were
expected. Nada. It was crowded, for being a small space, but was well
organized and flowed well.
It started with the chair of the Mendel board providing some opening
comments, followed by the MC, the premier, the mayor, a couple of sponsors,
then the director of the gallery, and finally Joni. I saw Ashara taping all
the remarks, which were moving and, of course, highly complimentary. Our
group was right up front, some standing a mere five feet from Joni during the
half hour ceremonies. I was proud to be part of the group and Joni was
radiant as the accolades were flying from the speakers. She sat next to Bill
with Myrtle between Bill and the premier. I must say however, I cringed as
the officials kept welcoming Joni and the Mitchell family. Chuck was no
where to be found. And I looked.
Ceremonies complete, the door opened and in we went. Many folks (myself
included) headed straight for the museum shop to purchase the holy grails.
That complete, I wedged my way through the admittedly crowded exhibit to get
a good glimpse of the work. I'll leave it to others to fully describe the
massive exhibit and their favorites, but will mention that my favorite, the
DED cover art (Dog Eat Dog #3) took my breath away in it's mixed media
execution. Unbelievable. Unforgettable. A less crowded afternoon of
viewing is on my agenda for tomorrow.
There was a VIP reception prior to the public opening that some of our
representatives attended (David Mingus, Jim J, David from Austin, Leslie from
Boston, and others I am forgetting). Some were there having scored invites,
other more inventive representatives crashed the early party entirely
unnoticed. I loved that! As it turned out, according to my spies, there
were no real special privileges to being let in early, except being let in
early and having easier access to the work and Joni. She commented that she
signed 500+ autographs prior to the public opening. There were none of the
rumored celebrities in attendance - no Jack Nicholson, Robin Williams, or the
like. Just rumors.
Getting close to her at the public opening was nearly impossible. She was
being interviewed by various media outlets and was surrounded (protected?) by
her friends. However, for those lucky enough to get close, she was charming
and attentive. A real pro. I did snag a moment as she exited the ladies room
(I think). Introduced myself, she commented that she remembered me from
earlier in the day at the hotel, but declined to sign my exhibit book, saying
her hand was tired and hoped I understood. She then looked at my nametag and
noticed I was from LA (she couldn't believe that I had come this far when "we
were neighbors") and told me call her manager and she would be happy to sign
it in LA, and to just attach a note that we had met in Saskatoon. Her
friend then handed me a card with the necessary information. I told here
there was no one in the world I'd rather go outside to smoke with than her
and she gave me a big hug. I was incredibly calm. It felt good.
The evening was not hampered by the thunderstorm that threatened the evening
after dark (and that's late here in Saskatoon). It rained some at the end of
the evening and the lightening was dramatic. I thought the skies lit up for
Joni. What a peach.
I snagged at least three new listers. Brian from Saskatoon, Gay from Fresno,
CA, and David from San Francisco - watch for newbies! Great folks.
By 10:30 PM, the exhibit halls were easily navigated and it was a snap to get
a good view of the art.
Well, that's it for now, again forgive the typos and horrid paragraph and
sentence structure. If you need me, I'll be in the bar.
Hi Everyone! I am excited, exhilarated, and utterly exhausted. This day has
been one of the most incredible days. I will try to pull my thoughts
together, because I truly feel that I am living this day for all of you as
well. Kenny wrote to me and said,"Ironic, you're in Dreamland, but not a long
long way from Canada at all :-) " and that statement couldn't be more true.
First of all, it is so amazing to me to be able to report all this to you as
it is happening. It's hard to believe that it's even possible!
Anyway....this morning, we had breakfast, and there was a really, really
wonderful article in the Saskatoon paper about Joni, and the exhibit. Several
color photographs, and other pictures. I will get this to Les when I get
back, and maybe he can scan them, and transcribed the article. It was a good
Then around 1PM, I had lunch with 20 of my now nearest and dearest friends.
The only lister in this group that I had met previously was Penny, as she was
in Topsfield last year for the New England Jonifest. Everyone, of course is
so great, and it is so nice to be able to put faces with names.
I somehow managed to finagle a press pass, so at 3 o'clock I headed down to
the Mendell for the press conference. As I have already said, I have the
entire press conference on video tape. It was about an hour of the press
asking questions and Joni answering them. Afterwards, we had a half hour to
look at the paintings, photograph them and video tape them. David Mingus and
Jim took lots of stills while I continued to video tape. The paintings are
GORGEOUS, and amazing to see in person! I'll leave it to the art critics in
the group to expound on them.
Back to the room, to change and get ready for the private reception that I
also wrangled my way into. Outside of our hotel, The Bessborough, while Jim
and I were waiting for David Mingus and his partner, David to show up, out of
the hotel came Joni with Gilles, the curator, Donald Freed, her friends Val,
Chris and Shel, and a few others. She stopped to talk for a few minutes, and
mentioned that the next painting she is planning on doing is from a picture
of Wally and Val that she had taken on the weekend that Wally and Jim visited
her in her home. I was really touched by that.
The private reception was very nice, and pretty crowded. Towards the end, I
was able to get my catalog signed. As she had signed a bunch of them already,
she started to sign her name twice to mine, and caught herself after she had
started the J. So, instead she made a little picture from it. So, now I can
say I have an original piece of artwork from Joni Mitchell! I also had a
chance to speak to Shel, Chris and Val, who were extremely nice, and really
liked my name. Then we all went outside for the opening remarks, which I also
got on video. And again, I was asked by CBC radio, for yet another show for
an interview, which I happily accepted. So, for those of you that will be
listening, I think that one airs after the 8:40 show.
Ended the night with watched myself on TV, which was very surrealistic, and
talking to sweet Rob (Evian) and his lovely wife Tracy until almost 2 AM.
Thank you a million times for anyone that taped the CBC. Please send me a
copy, and we'll squeeze it onto this Mendell tape.
All in all, a wonderful day, full of Joni and close encounters of the Joni
I'm loving all the reports and wait impatiently for more! Did Ashara invite
Joni to Topsfield?! What else is up? Inquiring minds want to know!
Most of the listers are going back today, and a few went back yesterday, so
you should be receiving more thoughts about Saskatoon from them soon. I think
every person from our group had some sort of close and personal contact, even
if it was just a touch on the shoulder. Unfortunately, I did not have a
chance to ask Joni about Topsfield. There wasn't really an opportunity for
Yesterday, I had a long conversation with Joni's friend Val about all things
metaphysical and spiritual. He is a nice guy, and we had a really interesting
Sal and I are leaving Saskatoon today after one more visit to the Mendel for
a last look at the paintings. I am so looking forward to getting this video
tape into all your hands! Branches, please don't forget to send 2 blank tapes
so they are ready for me when I get back!
Although the gala opening at the gallery was indeed a very special
evening, it was not without its flaws. One flaw was that Joni kept
getting mobbed by people who wanted autographs, and then she would flee
the scene in what looked like panic, escorted by her close friends. I
felt that this was very unfortunate and could have been easily fixed,
however I wondered if the lack of an organized signing session was
Joni's request, or an oversight by the gallery. I wrote the following
letter to the curator.
Dear Mr. Hebert:
I write this letter to thank you for your hard work in preparing the
excellent exhibition of Joni's visual art. The layout of the galleries
was wonderful, as was the lighting and the graphics. All in all, a very
welcoming design. I particularly liked the "Wild Things Run Fast"
hanging in the entryway. For many Joni Mitchell fans, we only knew her
art work as that which has graced the covers of her albums and CDs. Who
knew that the scope of her work included abstracts and collage-like
visual imagery? For me, that revealed another side of this
My only regret concerning the opening gala evening was that there was no
provision for Joni to sign autographs of the catalogue book, or the
posters, etc.. I don't know if this was the gallery's decision, or
Joni's, but it was rather frustrating to see her enter a gallery only to
be whisked away shortly afterward because she was signing upon request
of her fans, but also getting mobbed. Surely if a table had been set up
for her and rope barriers set up to create a line-up area, the whole
evening would have been less stressful for both Joni and those wishing
to have an autograph. You know us Canadians, like sheep, we respond to
cue lines in an orderly fashion. I would have liked to have seen this
rather than a slightly panic-stricken Joni racing away from the
unorganized mob surrounding her.
If Joni herself did not feel that it would be necessary to organize a
way to meet the public in this manner, and that she could just wade into
the crowd like anyone else, then she vastly underestimates her own fame
and the high regard in which people hold her.
We can't change the past, but it would be nice to know why the above
situation took place, even if it is just so that I can pass the
information on to the JMDL people.
In closing, I hope that the exhibition continues to be successful
throughout the summer for you. I am sure that it will be a big draw for
Once again, many thanks for bringing this exhibition of the work of Joni
Mitchell to Canada.
John A. Downes
Cub reporter Coyote Rick here, signing off from Saskatoon.
Well, the end of the trip to Saskatoon draws near. My flight leaves at
1:45PM - back to LA and reality. Today was a transitional day for me. The
first day of the trip I had to really relax and spend some time wandering in
the city. Naturally, including the Mendel Gallery. Most of the JMDL group
have left for their homes and computers. I am eager to read their posts
about the trip. Each of us had very unique experiences.
Yesterday, I awoke today groggy from the previous night's festivities. A
group of us partied till the wee hours at a local watering hole. Keeping Joni
hours, I left the hotel after noontime for a nice, long, healing walk. I
crossed the Broadway Bridge into the Broadway District. An area of
significant young Joni adventures. I walked to what I believed was her old
high school, sitting for a while talking to some students playing soccer. I
took some pictures of them and the school asking if they heard of Joni
Mitchell. The early teens told me of course they had heard of Joni Mitchell.
I asked them if they knew this is where she went to high school. They
laughed. They said this wasn't the school! Then pointed me in the right
direction. (Note to those on the riverboat ride: the tourguide was wrong,
so disregard all the photos we took!). Making my way to the real high
school, I then spoke with some other students who confirmed this was the
right place. More pictures. One student told me his grandmother used to
baby-sit Joni when she was young. The lady is certainly revered here in
After a brief tour of the Broadway district, which contains the first venue
in which Joni performed as a young girl, I made my way back over the Broadway
bridge toward downtown. The Broadway bridge has steps down that lead to
Kiwanis Park. It's a long riverfront park that runs from (roughly) the
Bessborough Hotel to the Mendel Gallery. Along the way, my mind was focusing
on how this area provided Joni the musician and poet with so much
inspiration. Along the walk, the citizens have erected modest memorials to
the veterans serving in Canada's foreign wars. The most elaborate is a
lovely fountain erected to the Canadian veterans of WWII.
Eventually making it to the Mendel, I was happy to again see the crowds
light, meaning that a very personal look at the paintings could happen. A
few minutes into my viewing, I ran into Penny which was delightful. Of all
the JMDL folks, Penny and I had the least time together, so it was so cool to
sit in front of the two Get Out Of The Kitchen paintings, with Joni's CDs
shuffling on the sound system and gab like magpies on a wire. Magic. After a
while, Rick from Vancouver showed up. It was his 8th visit to the gallery
and was still shining. Rick has this uncanny ability to point out the very
obscure details of the paintings and photographs. I learn something new each
time I see a painting with Rick. What a nice man.
Rick, Penny, and I spoke with the docent for a while, asking about a rumor we
heard about Myrtle not allowing Joni to hang one of her paintings. It was
the *French Kiss* painting, which Myrtle did not think was appropriate for
the people of Saskatoon to see. At the last minute, a change was made and
the less controversial (in Myrtle's mind) Red Mountain was substituted. So,
Myrtle has final approval of the exhibit!
There were a few other cute anecdotes. One of Joni's cats peed on Georgia
O'Keefe's Rainbarrell painting, permanently staining the work. Joni included
it anyway, stain and all, even commenting to the press on her cat's addition.
Another painting, Middle Point contains some cat hair added when one of the
cats brushed against the painting as it dried.
A final bit of trivia. Joni herself picked the CDs to be played (shuffled)
continuously throughout the exhibit. She chose Hits, TTT, TI, Hejira, and
I'll let you all guess which was the fifth. Saskatoon visitors - don't give
Well, gentle readers, it's time for me to finish packing and be on my way.
Over the weekend, I met the first violinist from the BSN tour. He traveled
as well from Los Angeles to attend the exhibit opening. A very chatty,
entertaining guy with a ton of little stories about being on the road. As it
tuns out, Ralph is a neighbor of mine andwe share some mutual acquaintances.
We are on the same travel itinerary today which includes a four hour layover
in Calgary during which time I hope he shares more road stories. A perfect
way to end a memorable trip. Many happy memories will linger for years.
Ashara and I did the radio interview with the CBC this morning. If any of
our Canadian listers heard a the interview, I hope we did you proud.
Yesterday, as I was making one last stop to the Mendel for a last look at the
paintings, a woman came up to me and said, "Ashara?" "Yes?" "It's Karen
O'Brien from the list." Wow!!! Unfortunately, even though Karen came all the
way from London for this exhibit, she was very busy before she left and was
not able to read about all the list plans to get together. I told her we were
heading west, and were planning to stop in Maidstone along the way. She
mentioned that she had gone there already, and that there was a small museum
that had a few Joni things in it, and also mentioned a story that was told to
her by one of the woman there about Joni when she was young.
So, saying our goodbyes, we started on our westward journey. Found Maidstone
without a problem. It is a VERY tiny town, population of about 1,000, and
about half that number when Joni lived there. Found the museum, introduced
ourselves, and when we said we just wanted to see the Joni stuff, she waived
the $2 entrance fee, and said, "just go on ahead in." LOL!! Out came the
video, and the film started rolling on the 4 or so pictures they had on the
wall. The most precious thing was a book of old photographs that Joni's mom
sent the museum of Joni, Sharon Bell, and some of her other friends and
family. Got it all on tape, including the words on the back of each
photograph where Myrtle had written a brief explanation of each picture. Then
Lois called another woman who knew the Andersons when they lived there, and
even sang in the church choir with Bill. Iris came right down, told us
stories, and then shuttled us into her car, brought us to the church, Bill's
grocery store, which is noe a video store, and then to Joni's old house where
she waved to the train each day as it went by. Got it all on tape, along with
a story or two, which I will let Karen post to the list when she gets back.
Iris and Lois told us how Joni always said Sharon Bell was the one with the
beautiful voice, not her, and promised to send me a tape that Sharon made a
while back. I bought a few recipe books from the museum for the raffle for
Jonifest, hugged those two incredibly generous woman, gave them a catalog
from the Mendel for their museum, and continued on our way.
Just finished the CBC radio interview with Rick Hobbs which was really fun.
Hi to all JMDL members who were sitting in front of the Mendel Art Gallery
Joni and the dignitaries appeared before the opening. I was sitting to your
the grass wearing my Turbulent Indigo t-shirt (little did I know how
painting would be in the exhibit) and a black cap. Saw all of you taking
each other, but knew in this "Dog Eat Dog" world to stay focused on moving to
the front once she appeared. Took some photos of her through the crowd.
before going through the doors of the gallery, I saw Bill and Myrtle standing
side, took a photo of them, and said, "thank you for giving the world such a
wonderful gift - your daughter!" Bill, replied to me with a smile, "I like
My few days in Saskatchewan were completely absorbing, all of the Prairie
that has influenced Joni in her art. I found out that Cherokee Louise's
Bridge has nothing to do with New York, where I am from! Drove through the
countryside on Saturday to photograph the sign "Baljennie Road>," and while I
didn't find a coyote there, a man with his family in a car on the way to some
Canada Day activity asked me if I was OK, as I was stopped on along a
somewhat deserted road. I answered, "I'm fine, I just wanted to see the
place mentioned in
Joni Mitchell's song 'Coyote." This geographical fact completely surprised
and I told him they really must see the Mendel show. Thank you to all of
for making me feel whole with Joni. Thank you also to Kate of Edmonton, who I
met with her son, Amo, and encouraged me to join the JMDL.
Oh oh my my. I think I'm finally ready to do this but I can't guarantee that
I'll get through in one sitting. I've already typed and deleted three
opening paragraphs. (The phrase "Words fail me" has never seemed so
appropriate.) I should have made notes every night! Maybe a simple
chronological narrative with spontaneous interjections is the way to go. But
after a weekend of sharing so many thoughts and good times with JMDLers I
hope I won't offend by adding too many details, personal or otherwise.
Arrived in Saskatoon (S) Thursday late-morning and made my way cross-town
from the airport to the university district . Central S is divided into two
sides by the South Saskatchewan River running north-south through the heart
of town. The west side starts at the airport and runs through light
industrial zones, shopping malls, rundown neighbourhoods, then slightly more
affluent homes, and ends with the downtown core with its old stone
buildings, the major hotels, and several blocks of stores suffering from the
commercial exodus to the outlying malls. The east side contains the
university, many blocks of beautiful elm tree-lined streets with well-kept
older homes, and the Broadway District where Joni's history unfolded. [Joni
note: Joni was a "rock and roll dancer" who danced on both sides of town. On
one side they called it bop and on the other, jive.]
Thursday early afternoon: time to wander across the University Bridge and
check out the Mendel. Brilliant sunshine, clear blue sky, temperature hot,
about 27C (85F) but tempered by the ever-present prairie wind. One of the
joys of the weekend is that anything in central S is within easy walking
distance, joined by a beautiful trail that runs through the parkland on both
sides of the river.
No crowds at the Gallery, no sign of the throngs you might expect if 6000
people were descending on the town. My heart skips a beat as I grab the door
handle and I break out in an idiot grin and start laughing as I swing the
door open and come face to face with Wild Things Run Fast hanging in front
of me. It's huge: officially 101" by 53" and divided into two joined panels.
I stand open-mouthed and wide-eyed gazing at Joni's face (the painting is a
prime example of Joni's admitted lack of depth perception and perspective
but her face is enthralling.)
Tearing myself away, I see the Turbulent Indigo cover on a poster hanging in
the gift shop and a table stocked with cds. Bought 2 posters and LOTC but
they don't have DJRD. (Rats!) Wandered back across the foyer into a kind of
a coffee shop area where I see two guys, one standing wearing a TTT t-shirt.
He sees me glancing at him, I sort of walk past but keep looking over, and
finally on of us says "Uhh, Joni List?" The thrill was immediate: my first
personal Lister contact! It was John from Chicago and his partner Richard.
(Funny list protocol: In order for us to recognize who we were meeting, we
often had to specify our email address names. John's posts arrive as Richard
Rice, mine as Rick and Susan.)
What an exciting few hours we spent that afternoon. I don't know how many of
you have had the experience of sitting and talking "Joni" to a kindred
spirit, but I bet it's pretty rare. We were laughing and sharing thoughts
and feelings that I rarely express aloud and, after 32 years, I can tell you
that the rush was both physical and emotional.
We hung around the gallery for the afternoon hoping for a Joni sighting
(Guards: "She's inside the gallery", "She's left now", "Oh no, she's still
in there") while John told me of his letter. Maybe he's too modest to relate
this and I hope I don't offend him but at one point I think it was Natalie
who came out and said that Joni loved his letter and was showing it to
everyone in the gallery. He was floating a few feet off the ground.
Our meeting with Ashara in the gift shop was funny (and perfect) and we were
just planning to leave when Joni walked out of the gallery hall with Gilles
Hebert , headed for the front doors. The gift shop has a separate entrance
door through which I immediately headed pulling John and Ashara behind me.
When Joni saw John she told him how wonderful his letter was and that she
would read it all when she had some time to herself.
John's partner Rich had the presence of mind to ask Joni if he could
photograph her with John. She was more than happy to oblige and was gracious
enough to pose with me and Ashara separately. I found myself standing
rubbing shoulders with Joni, looking directly into her eyes (she's about
5'7" I would guess) and telling of meeting her in Stratford in 1969. I
thought I should look over at Rich taking the picture but I couldn't look
away. Halfway through this I realize that Joni is **holding my hand**. I
babble, I stammer, she talks, I melt, she leaves, I float, I laugh.
And you know, the rest of the day is not too clear in my mind. I know we
went back to the Bessborough Hotel and met up with more Listers: Mary
Pitassi and I think Kerry (Keri?) from Milwaukee (email name--Myrtlemoo) and
others but, I'm sorry, it's a blur now. Made plans for Friday and went back
to the U-district for the night, walking in the balmy twilight, the breeze
wafting the green riverside smells through the air, dreamland comin' on.
Back again to home and routine. Welcome Brian! I more than concur with
your being Sk'toon's biggest Joni fan. There wasn't another flatlander
in sight more wide eyed and awe struck than you.
How flat is Saskatchewan? In conversation, a local named Randy had Rich
and I howling with this line:
Sk'toon is so flat. You can see your dog run away from home for three
Joni's art was phenomenal to see. I am still buzzing from the
experience! The show was excellently displayed. Groupings of related
paintings really gave the entire body of her work a full sense of
context. She is definitely better than the typical 'star art' crowd. The
woman is a full fledged painter of high regard. Although, she did
comment to members of the gallery staff she is craving educational
direction and feels she is at a cross-roads in her art. Ahhh, hearing
that, I somehow feel 'change' is in the air... Now, that's a surprise,
eh? ( O my god! Did I just use, 'eh' in a sentence...? Yipers... It's
As for art instruction, I doubt she needs a lot. Certainly her
composition skills and color sensibilities are as top notch as one can
get. There's lots of room for improvement in form painting, but I highly
doubt she wants to become a magic realist or any such thing. If there's
one technical flaw, she's painting lean over fat a lot in her darks.
Some of those sweet beautiful works of the last 4 years are already
showing signs of cracking. Considering the prices these babies are going
for, that's not good. They will definitely be seeing the crafty skilled
hands of a conservator in the none too distant future. And yes gang,
let's all dig in our pockets. The paintings are ALL up for sale!!!! I
think if we all collectively have a garage sale, we could pull enough
cash together to buy at least an iris print or one of those beautiful
photo etchings from the Hejira series.Woo baby. We could sort of share
it around, like the gag christmas gift that gets passed each year from
family member to family member. (And I do consider you all to be my Joni
family. -- By the way, Special hi's to Park Ranger Rick! As Coyote says,
"What a nice man." Felt like I met my best best friend...) There is evil
word that some couple from the east coast already have their slimy
monied paws on "Fourty Degrees below Zero" and "Dutch Postcard." Fourty
degrees is such a beautiful painting. God, I wish I had the cash!!! It's
is my favorite. Joni's masterpiece, followed closely by Turbulent
Indigo, which should fetch some maaaaaaaaajor coinage for the lady. They
say the bidding war is fierce. Uncle Coyote, will you buy this one for
Dutch Postcard is remarkable for it's date. It was painted in 1977, and
yet it fits perfectly amid the 1990's stuff. The dark palette with
shimmering lights, the swirly Van Gogh'esque technique, just right out
of her new sensibilities. And I love the story attatched to it. (
Spoiler Warning: Forgive me for stealing the thunder of the soon (?) to
be released documentary, which will have Joni telling the tale. If you
want to hear it from her fresh and unadulterated, please... skip to the
The painting is taken from a dutch postcard from a visit to Amsterdam
where she went gaga looking at Van Goghs. She was so stimulated by his
liberated use of color, she raced off to buy some paint supplies at a
local art supply store in Ansterdam, only to find it closed. From there
she flew to London. Still buzzed, she raced off to her favorite art
supply house in London, only to find it too was closed. When she touches
down in LA, still itching to paint, she races to her favorite art store
there as well. Only to find the store owner with his keys in the door,
just closing up for the night. Frantically, she tries to talk her way
in, but he is obstenate that THE STORE IS CLOSED. Fortunately, the girl
in his car is a fan and is screaming out to her dad, "Don't you know who
that is??? It's Joni Mitchell!! --You HAVE to let her in!!!!"
Unimpressed, he gives a dour look and says... "Five ...minutes."
Dutch Postcard is the end result. Alas, it is cracking. A lot of her
painting is in for some serious cracking, I fear. Joni loves to over
paint. Unfortunately, troweling on pigment should be reserved modestly,
and some colors, those that take a lot of oil to become a 'paint' are
no-no's for underlayers... In five years, they will look 500 years old.
Thank god for Conservators. (--I should talk. I've never done anything
of worth to worry about longevity.)
Hmmmm, other side bites...
Certainly, the two 'Get out of the Kitchen' paintings had an eerie sense
of autobiography to them. They are paintings of Larry, begun as modest
portraiture/ abstractions. Begun in her 'happy with Larry' period, they
sat unresolved for a few years. Then, in the heat of love going sour,
she pulled them out and attacked the canvases. Painting out parts of the
portraiture with gestural marks, then writing all over them, as a school
kid would at a chalk board for being bad, "Get out of the kitchen!!!!" (
...if you can't stand the heat.) Let's just say, this narative speaks to
her ability to get, shall we say, 'dramatic?' I don't think she was
happy when she did those.
Another surprise for me, the marker drawing in the center of the FTR
album, woman sniffing roses, is NOT a self portrait as I long imagined.
It is of Judy Collins. Was I the only one not to know this?
Actually, I rather wish I didn't. I will never be able to look at that
image the same way again. --The iris prints of her marker renderings are
quite beautiful. Certainly, they could be had at an affordable price.
The outrageous sums asked for the posters would be far more in keeping
if they were the asking price for these large iris prints. The actual
drawings were rather small, but she had tons of them. Waist high when
staked. My only regret, there is one image that deserved inclusion in
this retrospective and wasn't there: The ink drawing w watercolor from
the Court and Spark album. That little beauty is one of the most
beautiful pieces of art to grace my eyes.
I also loved hearing how Joni was touching up a painting in the gallery
as the show was being hung. She was not pleased with one of her
abstractions were she had nailed (!) a piece of dried acrylic paint from
her palette onto it's surface. Seeing in on the gallery wall she
disapproved of it and pulled it off, filling in the holes, except for
two, which she could not find. (We found them!) And thanks to Coyote, we
found all the cat hairs in the other paintings. That's what happens when
you start using the mediums. They suck particles to them like nothing
As soon as Ashara is home from her own hejira, ( Hi Sal! Hang in there
bud.) you will all be privy to a grand virtual tour through the exhibit.
There is going to be AWESOME material on that tape tree. I have
volunteered to be a tree, so feel free to hit me with those loving
requests... The media interview... the opening remarks... the virtual
tour. Yipers n dipers!!! I can't wait to see it, and I was there!!!! The
best way to complete your 'virtual' tour when you do see the images,
weither on video or in the catalogue, is to remember them, or think of
them as being made with wet paint. If you can imagine each passage of
color as being put on from a tube, you will be far better served in
enjoying the reproductions. Also, keep in mind, they are verrrry
textural. In Turbulent Indigo, the darks are rather thin, but as you get
into the lights in her face, it's like icing on a wedding cake. Piled
high. And I do mean high. The surface undulates. Especially the TTT
cover. ( Lots of kitty hair here too. )
Thanks all for indulging me. I wish, o how I wish it could have never
ended. Besides the joy of meeting Joni and sharing her art, it was a god
send to meet all of my fellow listers. Beautiful people. Coyote is as
class an act as his eloquent posts. And a great smiler to boot. Mary is
just a dear. Kerry was delightful fun. Dave is an angel of a lil' devil.
I love your spirit, man. And your better half, --what a woof pup!
Speaking of spirit, god, Jim you amaze me. (You gotta burn to shine.)
Brian is proof that Joni draws the sensitive, in tuned, and good
hearted. ( Guess he must take after Bob Muller and Ashara.) Ashara, you
simply must stop putting Sal through the paces! Boy, is he ever earning
his wings. Kate is so sweet. And Emil just stole my heart. What a fine
young man!!!! Gay is just a sweet wonder of a woman. I could spend hours
in her company. And special, special kudo's to Rick of Vancouver. If one
could pick your friends in life, you couldn't go wrong starting here.
Thank you all for such a great time. I can't wait to meet all the rest
John in Dekalb, still smiling from Rick's Canadian Orgami lesson. It's
fun to play with Monopoly money!
I still haven't collected my thoughts about the trip to S'toon yet, but
did want to get this portion of my post off to the JMDL.
After readying my mindset by putting Paprika Plains on repeat for our
flight from Calgary to S'toon, our plane landed with me properly tuned
for the land of Joni. ;-)
Rick was a little tired after the flights, so soon after we checked into
our room and unpacked at the Bessborough, he said he wanted to stay back
and relax awhile. I felt like getting some stuff done, so left for the
bank to exchange currency and take what I thought was the very short
walk to scope out the Mendel--after all it was such a beautiful day --
albeit maybe a little warmer than I prefer. The Bess to the Mendel --
five blocks my ass! ;-)
Anyway, after hoofing it to the Mendel I pop into the gift shop to find
out what all will be available the next night. (No Catherine, no "Joni
soap on a rope." ;-) I ask a very pleasant and helpful gift shop clerk
a series of questions then go out to the back to see the set-up for the
exhibit opening's reception. Spent a few minutes looking at the Wild
Things Run Fast painting in the lobby, amazed at the size of that one!!
Remembered one more question I wanted to ask the clerk so raised my
index finger motioning I had one more query, but before I got to the
gift shop door she smiled and called out to me "Ya know, why don't you
just ask Joni? She just got here and is standing alone out front." I
motioned a thank you and headed out front.
Joni was outside, standing with the brick facade bearing the Mendel's
name as a backdrop as Joni let one photographer take a couple of
pictures of her. At this point, I was purposely standing just far
enough away to not muddy up the pic with my ugly mug ;-), and Gilles
Hebert was getting out of the black Mercedes sedan in which he had just
brought Joni. Another picture was then taken with Hebert next to Joni.
The photographer thanked Joni for her time then she turned to me.
Something strange has happened both times I've talked with Joni -- I
turn almost business like in my address and become very uncomfortable.
All sorts of things race through my head -- "just because you know all
her lyrics, just because you've read every interview you know of, just
because you've followed her career very closely for over 25 years now --
you don't actually know Joni. And she sure as hell doesn't know you
from Adam. Say what you want to say Pen and don't waste any more of her
All I wanted to say to Joni this time was "hi" and to extend best wishes
for the exhibit. But the "hi" I was extending wasn't from me. I let
her know that I promised if the opportunity presented itself I was going
to say "hi" from a couple of people she knew from the early Detroit
days. She said "Sure. Now who would that be?" "Well, Joni, Pat Bolan
(Henry) says hi!" Joni, "Oh sure!!" Pat she remembered you instantly
with a smile on her face! I passed on that Pat told me to tell you, he
still has a mad crush on you and congratulations for so successfully
bringing your art to people. Pat, you got a lovely "Ohhhh, that's
sweet." Then I asked your question. "Joni, Pat has always wanted to
know if you were the one that got the record people to come calling on
him." At this point Joni got fuzzy in her recall "Oh, that was so many
years ago -- I may have -- I can't remember." Then I said "oh and one
more thing -- Pat says, for heaven's sake write!" Hebert pops in and
laughs -- "that's what everyone wants Joni to do!" We laughed for a
minute over that one and then I mention Sid -- she didn't remember him
until I gave more specifics of the club they played together and that he
looked just like Jerry Garcia.
I express my enthusiasm for the exhibit, thank her for her time with me
and also for letting us all finally see a greater portion of her
paintings. I tell Joni I hope she has as fabulous time both opening
night and the entire run of the show. She verbally thanks me and I turn
around and walk back to the Bess.
No hug, like someone else reported. I just get to darn business-like
when I talk to her and put up a stiff, unapproachable front. If I had
known I was going to run into Joni, I probably would have had a couple
of drinks between the bank and the Mendel and things would have been
more relaxed. But then again, after a couple of shots maybe I would
have forgotten Pat's last name from his Detroit days. I'll happily pass
on being relaxed enough to get a famous *Joni hug*, in exchange for
being able to fulfill a promise. ;-)
I think I've finally recovered from the excitement and lack of sleep, so
I'll try to
organize my thoughts about Saskatoon. My trip started out a little
tentative. After my first plane took off, I thought, "What am I doing?" I
had never traveled alone before and here I was flying to Canada to meet up
with a group of people I had never met! I was comforted by reading a book I
had brought full of adventures of women traveling alone. Then Canadian
customs made me a little nervous. The officer asked me, "Are you meeting
people there?" and "Why are you going so far for only 3 days??" How do you
explain going to Canada for an art gallery opening and meeting people you
only know from the internet? :>) He let me in anyway. I got in late
Thursday evening and learned the meaning of sleeping "on the strange pillows
of my wanderlust." Friday morning I woke up early and decided to go into
town and walk around. The first thing I did was walk along the river and
take a few pictures of the bridges. It was beautiful! I then walked toward
and saw a person with a Joni shirt - Penny, my first lister! She took me
back to the Bess where Joni was staying and there I met Mary P. and Jim
Johanson. We chatted for quite a long time and I loved listening to his
stories about Wally. We ended up meeting Val and
Chris, two very nice friends of Joni's. Shortly after, all the listers
gathering and it was so wonderful to meet everyone! We were supposed to go
to lunch, but Joni's friends said she was coming down soon.
We eventually saw the Mendel director use the house phone and assumed he was
alerting her to not come through the lobby. Then out of the corner of my
eye, I saw a woman in yellow get off the elevator and duck out the side
door. We all went out to the sidewalk and there she was!!!!! I nervously
snapped a few pictures and David Mingus had a picture taken with her. All I
could do was stand there and look! After she walked down the street, I was
We all had brunch and talked and agreed to meet at the gallery at 6:00. A
group of us waited outside enviously watching the lucky people attending
the private reception. Then, as it got closer to 8:00, the crowd started
closing in. I saw Rick (rick+susan) had already secured a place on the
sidewalk in front of the gallery, so I ran up to join him. Thanks Rick! We
had to crouch
down because the T.V. people kept telling us they needed a clear view. We
ended up being about five feet from Joni's chair!!! She finally came out
and was seated next to Bill, Myrtle and the premier of Saskatchewan. I took
about 10 pictures. This time I wasn't as shaky, but still nervous. I
loaded my next roll of film wrong and my shirt got stuck in the the back of
the camera!! It was so incredible being so close to her. Even though I was
in pain from kneeling on the hard sidewalk, it was worth it. I swear she
smiled at me, but who knows - it could be my wishful thinking! After this,
we were allowed to go through the gallery. I wanted to go back to the
gallery the next day and really enjoy her paintings, so I went through
briefly and hoped I'd see Joni outside at the reception. She came out about
20 mins later, but was unfortunately mobbed by fans wanting autographs. I
admit I was near her, but didn't want to be rude about getting her
attention. A group of us went back in the gallery later and really studied
everything. I was not prepared for what I saw. I felt like I was being
affected by Joni in a whole new way. First blown away by her music and now
her beautiful art! When I heard ACOY being played while looking at her
paintings, I was very close to tears. It had been "THE BEST DAY!" as
Amy and I kept repeating over and over. It was so wonderful to walk around
discussing the paintings with all the other Joni people. We went back about
3 times and I couldn't believe how I'd see something new in a painting or
photograph each time. WHAT a weekend! I was a little disappointed that I
didn't get to meet Joni (boo hoo), but I'm happy that so many listers did!!
hearing how gracious and friendly she was with everyone. When I found my
seat on the plane for home, there was a jazz station playing and
"You've Changed" came on (Billie's version). I couldn't believe it! I
thought about how I changed. I successfully ventured out on my own,
had 3 close encounters with the goddess, saw her artistry firsthand and met
a lot of beautiful, funny, wonderful people!
Let's not talk about fare-thee-wells now
The night is a starry dome
P.S. Mary, Jack, Rick, John, Amy, Ashara, Sal & Jim -- If you're ever in
Milwaukee, stop by and I'd be glad to take you all out for canned soup!!!!
Friday morning, bad night's sleep, feeling kind of spacy (not Kevin!), but
today is the day! Brilliant sunshiny day again and I stroll across the
bridge toward the Mendel, watching the saucy magpies and the fat prairie
dogs along the way. Did a bit of shopping downtown and then off to the Bess
for brunch with the List.
We have a reservation for 20 in the Bess's Bistro but the excitement of
possibly sighting Joni causes us to linger in the lobby, chatting, laughing,
filling out our wonderful name tags, and quickly glancing over our shoulders
every time the elevator doors open. As Kerry reported, Joni did appear,
ducking out through the pub doors to avoid the obvious crowd of fans in the
lobby (us!). This was the only time that I felt a twinge of conscience, as
we rushed out through the lobby doors and held Joni up from making a clean
getaway. But she was as gracious as always, pausing to pose with David
Mingus before being rushed away.
Lunch was a fun time (but not because of the food). In attendance (but I
know I'll forget someone): John, Penny (email name: zapuppy), Kerry, Mary,
Coyote Rick, Ashara and Sal, Kate, Rob (email name: Evian) and Tracy, David
and David, the guys who drove up from Austin (sorry), and Jim Johannson.
What a pleasure it was for me to meet Jim. His reminiscences about Wally and
his tidbits of info about Joni fascinated all of us all weekend.
Six o'clock p.m., the chosen meeting time at the carousel across from the
Mendel, and only 3 of us are there. (And I thought I had done such a good
job of organizing the rendezvous!) Eventually we wander over to the gallery
and find several others near the front doors. We meet Kate's wonderful son
Emil, a life-long Joni fan. The crowds expected have not materialized yet;
in fact, there are probably only 200 other people besides us.
A steady stream of well-dressed invited guests are entering the gallery for
the VIP reception, Jim and Ashara among them. The lads from Austin manage to
sneak in ("Wait for a disturbance and just walk in.") Leslie (from Boston)
shows up after arriving that morning and also manages to get in, largely I
think because she is also well-dressed. The guests seem to be presenting the
printed announcement card at the door, so Kerry and I decide to bluff our
way in, but we are not well-dressed, and our deception falls apart when we
are asked for the invitation that came *inside* the announcement card. Oh
The JMDL name tags prove to be an excellent way to meet people and recruit
new listers. Many of us are approached by strangers asking about the JMDL
and we pass on the website address with pleasure. I meet Amy from Dallas
(originally Detroit, soon to be Boulder) sitting on the grass and, after
sharing our mutual love for Joni, I invite her to meet the group. She along
with Brian from Saskatoon, and Gay from LA are awarded instant membership
to the list and presented with their own name tags.
The crowd grew to about 1500 but never reached pre-show estimates of 6-8000.
Those numbers may have scared a lot of people away, or perhaps it was just
marketing hype. Just before 8 pm we scooted as close as we could to the
podium and the crowd flowed in behind us. We had scored the best seats in
the house, less than 10 feet from where Joni would sit and unobstructed by
anyone, although the camera people who kept tripping over us were a bit
annoying. An excited murmur rose from the crowd, the doors opened, and out
walked the Queen herself, glowing with happiness, to be greeted by a long,
thunderous ovation. After signalling the crowd to cut the applause short (it
didn't work), she took her place along with her parents and a host of
Because we were sitting or kneeling on the pavement, most of us were in some
discomfort but we suffered it gladly for this chance to be close to her. The
speakers were all mercifully brief and Joni spoke a bit at the end. No, I
don't remember a thing she said, but I know she was beautiful and funny and
happy and her voice worked its special magic on me once again.
Then it was over, she retreated inside and the crowd was let in, *500* at a