I was never the most avid fan of David Bowie’s music, though Changes and Let's Dance were certainly anthems at some point. Yet I felt incredibly bereft to learn of his death, as did almost everyone I spoke with for the next day or so. Young and old, “did you hear” was the first thing we all said to one another, sotto voce, as it became increasingly clear something important in the world had been lost, leaving a gap we had no idea how to fill.
There was just something about Bowie, beyond the music, beyond Ziggy and Major Tom and the Thin White Duke, that made him remarkable. Whether he was Aladdin Sane or a lad insane, here was a man hiding in plain sight, mocking the profane while mourning it. Did he have the pulse of a beautiful victim masquerading as a survivor, or was he the ultimate poseur, a glorious high wire act we watched in amazed amusement all these years, mouth agape at the chutzpa. What is clear and increasingly rare is how Bowie, for all his fame, seemed to remain true to himself. He managed to escape the maw of our horrible sinking music culture, even, in his last year, instigating interesting new projects. His was an art that strove to levitate. He leaves us with a rich monologue of aural and visual invention that at the very least (and there was so much more) defied gender limitations before most of us even knew they existed.
Creativity like that comes at a price, and it’s rare. But that’s not the reason true creatives are few and far between while their imitators proliferate. There was always a sense behind David Bowie’s mannered, beautiful glide through life that kindness had an inestimable value, that we could all do with being a bit classier. All you hear talk about these days is “class” with respect to the growing gap between the rich and poor. Yes, well. But Bowie’s kind of class wasn’t about money (not everything is!) or even power, really. Fashionistas and wannabes of every stripe skimmed off the top of his aura but it was the disenfranchised outliers, the weirdos, the kooks, the sleeper extraterrestrials in our midst - anyone who understood longing - who loved him best.
In 1984, when Lukka was 5, I took him to a Bowie concert in Inglewood. For reasons lost in the fogs of time it seemed imperative he witness the Starman before he stopped touring or worse, burned out. We had dreadful seats. I can’t recall the playlist. But what I do remember and have never forgotten was an abundant feeling that energy was expandable. No one even noticed the little guy I kept hoisting onto my shoulders above the crowd as we all clapped and swayed. Lukka kept asking if I could see Bowie’s shoes - so I hoisted him higher - but in reminiscing about that night a few days ago he remembered differently. “There was a lot of fog on the stage, but I swear it looked like his feet never touched the ground."
In naming a constellation after Bowie last week Philippe Mollet, from the MIRA Observatory in Belgium aptly, though perhaps unintentionally, noted “it was not easy to determine the appropriate stars." Generally, the more massive the star the faster it burns out. Small comfort then the seven little stars they choose for Bowie are in no danger of burning out anytime soon.
We’d been playing around with the idea of a “music video night” in the gallery for a few weeks before David Bowie died and we’ll kick it off this coming Friday with an evening of Bowie videos. In future weeks we’ll comb back through early MTV, letting eau d'bowie and Barndiva's own eclectic creative spirit guide us. We welcome your suggestions - music videos that have panache and point of view, groovy visuals wrapped around great tunes.
The Studio Barndiva Gallery is open Wed – Sunday from 10am; The Gallery Bar, with its bistro menus and great cocktails, begins serving at 3:00 until closing. Sunday night we offer a prix fixe Classic French Country Supper, reservations suggested.