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by Jason Warick
Saskatoon StarPhoenix
July 1, 2000

Throng Greets Joni Mitchell's Art Show Opening

Jack Nicholson wasn't there - neither were Neil Young or any other of Joni Mitchell's famous friends rumoured to be in Saskatoon this week - but maybe that was her point.

Mitchell chose Saskatoon - home of her parents, her partner, and most of the 1,000 or so fans who gathered for her first ever art retrospective, which opened in gala fashion Friday evening at the Mendel Art Gallery.

"I'm a flatlander. Period," Mitchell said Friday afternoon.

Friday evening, she led the procession of dignitaries, sponsors, friends and family, onto the podium in front of the Mendel and was greeted by a perfect prairie evening and a rousing ovation.

"I'm so glad to see you all and I hope you enjoy the work," Mitchell said.

"They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I've got 87 pictures in there."

Mitchell, who graduated from Aden Bowman Collegiate and signed her first recording contract in 1967's "Summer of love," went on to become one of the most famous musicians in North America.

The crowd gathered at the Mendel spanned all generations and all types of fashion sensibilities.

One man in a hemp shirt, torn jeans and sandals stood beside another in a tuxedo, both of them standing on their toes to catch Mitchell's every expression at the podium.

Most people interviewed said they were impressed by Mitchell's commitment to her roots, both in her work and in her decision to show in Saskatoon.

"This reminds me of listening to my friends playing guitar in the Bessborough park years ago," Melinda Brown, 38, said as Both Sides Now played over the loudspeaker.

Brown attended with husband Cam and 13-year-old daughter Kristen.

Kristen, a budding pastel artist, said she's already "sort of" familiar with Mitchell's paintings.

"It's cool," Kristen said.

Aaron Adair, 22, plays in the band Five Minute Miracle and said he and his friends cam to catch a glimpse of Mitchell.

"I've just always respected her. Anyone from our province who can do what she's done deserves our respect," Adair said.

"I got some of my mom's old vinyl - pulled it today and had a listen."

Rob Palocol, 23, said he's not familiar with Mitchell's work, "but I know her from who she's influenced."

"Anyone that can inspire Prince, anyone who Miles Davis respects…I came to see her."

Her parents sat proudly with their famous daughter, once known as Roberta Joan Anderson, while Premier Roy Romanow, Mayor Henry Dayday, and others gushed over memories of Mitchell and her songs.

"It's a dream…to bask in the brilliance of one of the world's greatest artists," said friend and artist Camille Mitchell, granddaughter of Fred Mendel.

Romanow recounted meeting Mitchell at the Louis Riel Coffee House on Broadway Avenue when Mitchell was just starting out.

He called Friday's event "a very exciting time for our province and our country."

Mendel director Giles Hebert, who was instrumental in bringing the show to Saskatoon, walked to the podium and quipped, "Ho, hum. Welcome to another opening at the Mendel Art Gallery. We always get good crowds."

Following the speeches, the first 500 people to the doors walked through the gallery to view the work.

Hundreds of others converged on the giant tent behind the Mendel for drinks - just as lightening began to light up the sky."

 

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