biography

alicia painting

Born May 14, 1949 in Hollywood, California, to sculptor Verna Lebow, MFA, and surgeon Paul Kaufman, MD, Alicia grew up in a bi-lingual, intellectual, artistic, musical and politically active household.

alicia almost ten
Almost 10. March, 1959. Photo by Paul Kaufman MD

A passionate follower of her muse since early childhood, Alicia was influenced and acknowledged by three major figures in art, music and literature by her mid-teens. Her multi-instrumental music studies (piano, clarinet, guitar) lead her to learn open-tuned guitar improvisation from John Fahey, then married to Alicia’s cousin Janet Lebow.

A summer scholarship to Otis Art Institute enabled Alicia to study with Charles White III in 1965. While working as a graphic layout artist at the infamous Los Angeles Free Press in 1966, Alicia submitted a piece of writing that Joan Didion selected as the quintessential example of alternative press writing for an article titled “Alicia and the Underground Press” in her Points West column in the Saturday Evening Post.

In 1966, at age seventeen, after six weeks at San Francisco State College, Alicia began a productive career as a free-lance artist/writer/musician. She sang and played guitar at coffee houses in the Bay Area, wrote songs, drew reams of line drawings, worked occasionally as a cook, and attended a semester at Pacific Fashion Institute in San Francisco.

In 1967 she moved to the houseboats off Sausalito where she adopted collage artist Jean Varda as a mentor. At eighteen, she worked out of her own art studio in the Industrial Center Building in Sausalito, where she began creating the 5’x8’ fiber art wall hanging currently displayed at the online Hippie Museum. She sold her handmade clothes and ceramics at the San Rafael Renaissance Pleasure Faire.

12 string guitar easter at wheeler ranch 1970
Easter at Wheeler Ranch, 1970 (photo by Sylvia Clarke Hamilton). The instrument is a Fender electric bass neck on a 12 string guitar.

At nineteen Alicia moved to the Wheeler Ranch Commune in Sonoma County, California and began writing, illustrating and designing Living On The Earth, a handwritten guide to bohemian country living illustrated with line drawings, initially conceived as an informational pamphlet to share with fellow commune dwellers, based on advice gathered from friends at Wheeler Ranch.

Published in 1970 by The Bookworks in Berkeley, the book sold out its first edition of 10,000 copies in two weeks, in part due to a rave review in the Whole Earth Catalog. Bennett Cerf, then president and co-founder of Random House, purchased the rights to publish it for Random House.

The 1971 Random House Vintage Books edition sold over 350,000 copies, becoming the first paperback book ever on the New York Times Bestseller List. It was favorably reviewed in Time, New York Times Review of Books, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Christian Science Monitor, Look, and dozens of other publications, and Alicia was recognized as a Woman of the Year in 1971 by Mademoiselle Magazine.

Over the next three years she created seven other illustrated books, five of which were published by Soshisha, Ltd. in Japan. (Living on the Earth has remained in print continuously in Japanese since 1972, and Being of the Sun was re-released by Soshisha in March 2007.) The ribbon surrounding the cover of Soshisha’s Living on the Earth bears these words from Japan’s poet laureate, Shuntaro Tanikawa: “I want to do everything in this book. If I cannot do everything in this book, then I want to dream about it, because if I do, I will become a better person to the marrow of my bones.”

In 1973, Alicia served as one of five judges in the Levi Strauss Denim Art Contest, along with fashion designer Rudi Gernreich, photographer Imogen Cunningham, fiber artist Candace Crockett and the curator of the De Young Museum in San Francisco.

In 1974, Alicia went on a speaking tour in Japan as the guest of her publisher, Soshisha, Ltd. On her way back, she stopped on Maui, and stayed to learn traditional Hawaiian slack key guitar.

Alicia dancing in Haleakala volcano, Maui, 1976.
Alicia dancing in Haleakala volcano, Maui, 1976. Photo by artist Andrew Annenberg

Over her 30 year residence in Hawaii, Alicia studied Hawaiian music, worked as an underwater photographer, taught yoga, performed extensively as a vocalist/guitarist, had several one-woman art shows, taught art, music, writing and dance at two alternative schools, and illustrated books.

From 1988 to 1999, she produced over 3000 weddings as the owner/operator/founder of A Wedding Made In Paradise – Maui, where she also functioned as event and floral designer and wedding musician. The company was featured on Good Morning America in March 1993, and in half a dozen books on weddings and Hawaii travel during the 1990s.

In 1999 she sold the wedding company, produced a CD of her original psych folk songs from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Music From Living on the Earth, and toured the USA for eight months with 75 performances of an original one-woman show featuring autobiographical comedy stories and original songs to promote both the CD and the 30th Anniversary (revised) Edition of Living on the Earth (Random House 2000). The CD garnered an Album Pick on allmusic.com.  (Random House has kept the second edition of Living on the Earth in print continuously since 1971 in a hardcover library edition as an historic document used for study at universities.)

 

In 2001, following the tour, she produced a second CD of original and historic Hawaiian songs, Living in Hawaii Style, toured in Hawaii and California, got airplay in both states, and headlined at the Big Island Slack Key Guitar Festival in 2002. Both CDs were released in Japan by EM Records in September 2005.

In 2003, Alicia was included as one of thirty representative Northern California authors in Jonah Raskin’s book of essays, Natives, Newcomers, Exiles and Fugitives.

In May 2006 Alicia released her third CD, What Living’s All About, 12 jazz and blues songs, ten of them original. The CD was one of 12 Editor’s DIY Picks in the May 2007 issue of Performing Songwriter Magazine, and the opening song, Floozy Tune, placed in the Top 20 Finalists in the Jazz Category of the 2007 Unisong International Songwriting Contest, then as 7th place in the International Division of the Indie International Songwriting contest, and then as a Finalist in the 100% Music Songwriting Contest. Radio Free Phoenix has been featuring songs from the CD since 2007.

Alicia serenades legendary herbalist Juliette de Bairacli-Levy at the New England Womens Herbal Conference, August, 2000.
Alicia serenades legendary herbalist Juliette de Bairacli-Levy at the New England Womens Herbal Conference, August, 2000.

Living on the Earth was published in its 4th Edition in 2003 by Gibbs Smith, Publisher and is still in print as of 2013.  Soshisha Ltd. has been publishing the Japanese edition of Living on the Earth continuously since 1972, and it is also in print as of 2013.  Soshisha resumed publishing Being of the Sun in 2008.

In October 2006, Alicia toured Japan for a month as the guest of Kurkku, an environmental arts organization in Tokyo, performing eight concerts. Fashion designer Aya Noguchi created a line of clothing printed with illustrations from Living on the Earth for her fall 2007 line.

Alicia returned to Japan for a fifteen-concert tour from April 26 to June 19, 2007, which included being the subject of a television documentary on Asahi Broadcasting Station.

In 2008, Alicia returned to Japan for a highly successful gallery show of 30 of the original drawings from Living on the Earth, at Kurkku’s Jingumae Lab in Shibuya,Tokyo, and an eleven concert musical tour, from April 10 to June 2, 2008. Aya Noguchi released a second line of clothing featuring illustrations from Being of the Sun, which were displayed along with Alicia’s art at the gallery. A second, successful show of the Living on the Earth drawings at Mirai Garou, a gallery in the Roponggi Hills complex of Tokyo, ran from August 5 to 31, 2008, and a third show ran during May and June 2009 at the Birdo Flugas Gallery in Sendai, Japan.

 

ABL Yukotopia 08-web-sized.jpg

Alicia performing at Yukotopia night club in Tokyo, June 2008

In August 2009 Alicia released her 4th CD, Beyond Living, a collection of Americana/world music songs, which she toured from September 15 to November 5, 2009, in Japan, with a series of eleven live performances plus her fourth gallery show of the Living on the Earth drawings, this time at Gallery Speak For, in the Daikanyama Fashion District of Tokyo.  Her fifth gallery show of Living on the Earth drawings was at Cafe Unizon in Ginowan, Okinawa from October 6 to November 3, 2010.  Radio Free Phoenix began featuring songs from Beyond Living in January 2010.

In autumn and winter 2009-2010, Alicia created drawings for Banana Yoshimoto’s novel Another World, a set of drawings for the promotional pamphlet for Lee Jeans Japan’s organic cotton women’s jeans line in collaboration with Pre Organic Cotton, a new set of drawings for Aya Noguchi’s summer 2010 fashion line, illustrations for pop singer/poet Yuki's 2010 tour merchandise, and illustrations for the Artist Power Bank Rock Festival merchandise (for the second year in a row).

In May 2010, Phoenix Body Mind and Soul presented its first annual Living on the Earth Celebration, featuring Alicia's live performance, books and recordings.

All four of Alicia's music CDs were re-released by Tokyo-based distributor, Real Music, on July 20, 2010. Alicia performed 12 concerts in Japan between September 21 and November 9, 2010 in support of the re-release of the CDs, including one at a gallery show of her drawings at Cafe Unizon in Ginowan, Okinawa, and three at Gallery Le Deco, in the Shibuya fashion district of Tokyo, at an exhibition of fashion designer Kaorico Ago's new clothing lines, including a line of clothes printed with illustrations from Living on the Earth.

Her 5' x 8' patchwork wall-hanging, made between 1967 and 1974, was chosen by the curator of the San Jose Textile Museum for a special exhibit at the historic Mills Building in San Francisco from October 15, 2010 to January 15, 2010.

In 2011, Alicia created illustrations for two styles of shoes made by Birkenstock Japan (also known as Tatami Shoes), as well as her third consecutive year of festival towel and t-shirt illustrations for the Artist Power Bank Music Festival.  She also donated illustrations to print on items sold to raise money for the victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster. 

Alicia toured again in Japan May through July 2012. The tour included a series of concerts at fashion exhibitions for Little Eagle, a fashion company specializing in natural fiber clothes, handmade at a Fair Trade factory in India.  Little Eagle licenses illustrations from Alicia's book, Living on the Earth, to print on some of the clothes. Alicia also lead two art workshops. She created her second set of illustrated shoes for Birkenstock Japan, her fourth set of illustrated festival towel and t-shirt designs for Artist Power Bank, her first set of illustrated merchandise for Urban Research/Doors, a chain of stores offering eco-minded products in Japan, and her first set of illustrated packaging for Rainbow Caravan Organic Bakery.  Aya Noguchi created a new fashion line illustrated with drawings from Being of the Sun.

Alicia's 2013 Japan tour ran from early June through early August, and included 25 musical performances, 16 of them at Little Eagle fashion exhibitions, plus a gallery show of framed original drawings from Living on the Earth at Gallery Speak For in Daikanyama, Tokyo, and two art in nature workshops. 

She simultaneous released two CDs (her 5th and 6th), Songs from Being of the Sun: 1973 Archival Recordings of Ramon Sender and Alicia Bay Laurel Performing Songs and Chants from their DIY Spirituality and Music Book, and Living with Young Eyes: My First 25 Years as a Series of Solo Guitar Medleys.

In June, July and August 2014, Alicia will tour again in Japan, singing and modeling with Little Eagle natural fashion company, leading art in nature workshops, and introduding her 7th CD, More Songs From Living on the Earth.  She continues to write and illustrate articles for Murmur Magazine, a Japanese quarterly journal appealing to women with an environmentalist perspective.

Alicia divides her time between bases in Southern California, Spain and Panama, but is always planning to visit other places as well.