Jean Isabel Smith (born August 1, 1959 Vancouver, British Columbia) is a Canadian musician, best known as the lead singer of the Vancouver band Mecca Normal, as well as a painter, novelist, lecturer and filmmaker. Her work explores themes of feminism and anti-authoritarianism.
Smith met Mecca Normal bandmate David Lester in 1981 while the two were working together at a Vancouver newspaper.
In 1986, Smith and Lester co-created, co-organized and participated in The Black Wedge—anti-authoritarian musicians and poets touring in the USA, Canada and England.
As a result of her work in Mecca Normal, Smith is now considered a forerunner of the 1990s politically charged riot grrrl movement, influencing many female artists within, and beyond, the genre.
In August 1993, Smith's first novel I Can Hear Me Fine was published by David Lester's publishing company Get to the Point. Her second novel, The Ghost of Understanding, was published by Arsenal Pulp Press in 1998. Chapbooks The Family Swan and Other Songs (2002) and Two Stories (2006) were published by Get to the Point. Jean Smith is represented by the Carolyn Swayze Literary Agency.
In 2000 and 2006, Jean Smith received Canada Council for the Arts awards as a professional writer of creative fiction. Her writing appears regularly in Magnet (magazine) online.
Kill Rock Stars released a spoken word 7" Carboni Angel (wordcore v.3) and a solo album titled Jean Smith in 2000.
Mecca Normal's albums have been released on Smarten UP! Records, K Records, Matador, Kill Rock Stars and M'lady's Records. Smith designs the posters and album covers for Mecca Normal.
In 2000, Smith's series of watercolor self-portraits (1973–1999, from age 13 onward) were exhibited at Olympia's Ladyfest Art Show. The self-portrait series is included in Mecca Normal's music, art and lecture event How Art & Music Can Change the World which, since 2002, Smith and Lester have been presenting in university and high school classrooms, art galleries, indie media outlets and book stores. The lecture was presented on an April 2009 tour marking Mecca Normal's twenty-fifth anniversary after which it evolved into Smith's adaptation of David Lester's graphic novel The Listener (Arbeiter Ring, 2011) which deals with similar themes.
Smith has continued the self-portrait series in watercolor, video and photography, including photos from her online dating profiles in her short film Attraction is Ephemeral—the title of a song on Mecca Normal's 2006 album The Observer. Many of the songs on the CD are about short romances resulting from Smith's online dating experiences.
In August 2009, Smith's photo series Guard Shack was exhibited at Fontanelle Gallery in Portland, Oregon. The show pertained to the publishing of The Art of Touring (Yeti, 2009) -- a collection of photos, art and writing by musicians about touring. Smith's contribution to the book includes abstract paintings from her series 9/11 and an outline of a Mecca Normal tour in the New York area during the 9/11 attacks.
Smith's paintings can be viewed from her website.