SASKATOON -- Canadian music icon Joni Mitchell opened her first exhibition in Canada yesterday of her painting, photographs and other works.
Mitchell's illustrations and paintings have graced album covers since her album debut in 1968 to her latest release, Both Sides Now, which features a self-portrait of her smoking a cigarette.
That image came to life yesterday as she waved around a lit cigarette while explaining why it was important for her to open the exhibit in her old home town.
"For one, Papa Mendel, who donated this museum was the grandfather of a friend of mine in high school and we partied at his house," she said of the gallery founded by Frederick Mendel in 1967.
"So the first great paintings that I got a chance to see, Picasso's and Matisse's, were at Grandpa Mendel's house."
But Mitchell, with her blond hair tucked under a broad-brimmed sun hat, said the main reason was her parents.
"I wanted my parents to be able to attend a retrospective of my work," she said.
"They were always very encouraging in the painting in particular."
Mitchell, 56, was born in Fort Macleod and moved around the Prairies when she was a young girl before her parents settled in Saskatoon. Despite living in Los Angeles, the Grammy-award-winning singer's ties to the Saskatchewan city are strong and she returns to visit her parents often. It is during these trips that Mitchell takes many of the photographs she bases her paintings on when she returns to her home in California.
"After I finish the music, I paint, always," she said.
"I steal time to paint whenever I can."
The 81-piece exhibit covers 35 years of her work. It is expected to run until Sept. 17.