Self Portrait, 2017
acrylic on canvas
30 x 24 in
As inspiration for her own portrait, Joan chose a 1969 photograph of her by Yousuf Karsh (1908 – 2002), an Armenian-Canadian photographer whose portraits of notable people led to him being considered one of the greatest portrait photographers of the 20th century.
When the photo was taken, Joan was living at Struggle Mountain, a compound in the Los Altos Hills that was a haven for draft resisters. Her husband David had recently been arrested there by federal marshals and carted off to prison to begin serving a three-year sentence for draft evasion. Joan was pregnant with their son, Gabe.
“Three or four guys from the Resistance were living there on the property,” she recalls. “A lot of this was around the Center for Nonviolence. It was all very political.”
She had cut her famously long black hair into a more utilitarian bob, a style that horrified the stuffy, buttoned-down Karsh when he arrived at their mountain retreat.
“He was aghast,” she recalls with a giggle. “I don’t know how he pulled himself together.”
The photographer would probably approve of the alteration she made when she used his photo to paint her portrait. It shows a famous young performer and activist with her face in her hands and with her long hair once again flowing over her shoulders, looking like the folk madonna Karsh had envisioned.
“I gave myself my hair back,” she says with a grin.