The onetime spouse of famed promoter Bill Graham, Bonnie MacLean was one of the most well-regarded concert poster artists of the late-60s, early-70s psychedelic rock era, known for her kaleidoscopic placards. She, however, departed this mortal coil earlier this month at 80 years old while in hospice.
As reported by The Chronicle, the 80-year-old artist — who’s work once regularly graced concerts at The Fillmore some five decades ago — died February 4th in a Newton, Pennsylvania nursing home. But, per the New York Times, her still-living son David Graham wouldn’t go further into the details about his mother’s passing.
Born in Philadelphia in 1939, MacLean’s revered as a pioneering female force of artistry in this otherwise male-dominated realm. Her then-husband Graham — who later died in a helicopter crash near Vallejo on October 25, 1991 — served as a constant source of inspiration, immersing her in San Francisco’s lively and vivid music scene and introducing the talented drawer to his cohort of colorful creatives.
So, when fellow poster artist and frequent collaborator Wes Willson left his post (apparently after a “falling out” between he and Graham) as The Fillmore’s in-house poster artists, MacLean took over the position in 1967 for the next four years. During her brief tenure, MacLean designed and hand-drew nearly three dozen 14-by-20-inch posters, among them iterations for the Animals and her personal favorite “BG #75.”
“I designed a total of 32 posters,” she told The Key in 2015. MacLean’s work is so sought after, perhaps even more so now, that original pieces fetch for $10,000-plus in certain circles. “I was off the scene by 1971, so it was not a long time doing it.”
Though, MacLean hopes and believes her craft should be kept alive in an increasingly digital world.
“I think handwork needs to be kept alive,” she told the Philadelphia-based music publication. “It’s something people are inclined to do naturally. It’s something we have a human built-in desire to do. It always has been. It still is.”
Interestingly enough, MacLean, herself, wasn’t fond of taking the hallucinogens many synonymized with descriptions of her work.
“I didn’t have much to do with [taking hallucinogens],” she told The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2015. “Timothy Leary’s idea that you just ‘turn on, tune in and drop out’ just nauseated me.”
Nevertheless, her celebrated, trippy works are — and will be — admired for the future generations to come.
After her divorce from Graham in 1975, she moved back to her birth state of Pennsylvania where she’d later remarry and strike up a career as a fine artist, with a focus on nudes and landscapes, until her passing.
MacLean is survived David Graham, the son she and her ex-husband welcomed in 1968.
Image: Courtesy of D.King Gallery, Berkeley CA