Category Archives: Philadelphia Multimedia

Assembled

Philadelphia AssembledCity is Stage for Philadelphia Assembled

April through December 2017

Beginning in late April, a project entitled Philadelphia Assembled will manifest in a series of activities and actions throughout the city to illuminate and amplify a broad set of hopes, visions, and questions about Philadelphia’s future. Initiated by artist Jeanne van Heeswijk, working alongside an extensive network of collaborators—among them artists, writers, builders, storytellers, gardeners, healers, and activists—Philadelphia Assembled aims to shape a collective narrative about our city and some of the most urgent issues it faces at a time of heightened transformation. Deeply integrated into the fabric of the Museum, the project also questions the place of this institution in the midst of this change.

Philadelphia Assembled

Following this spring season of city-wide programs, the project will culminate in an exhibition opening in September at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This participatory installation, September 10 through December 10, 2017, will transform the Perelman Building’s ground floor galleries, café, and store into spaces that will celebrate the people, sights, sounds, and tastes of a resilient city’s multi-faceted identity. Admission will be Pay What You Wish.

Evocatively referred to as “atmospheres of democracy”, Philadelphia Assembled addresses a number of issues that are central to the future the city by focusing on key themes such as reconstructions—how we deal with questions of social displacement and reentry into society; sovereignty—how we define self-determination and autonomy; sanctuary—how we understand self-care, asylum, and refuge; futures—how to re-imagine our tomorrow; and movement—how we facilitate action and collective learning.

Philadelphia Assembled

Van Heeswijk’s work, which is often described as social practice or socially engaged art, combines art and activism. In this spirit, the project brings together voices of those who care about the changing landscape of Philadelphia and who, in life and work, seek to champion and secure a prosperous and equitable future for all of its citizens.

Timothy Rub, The George D. Widener Director and CEO, stated, “Some of the most interesting work being done by artists today straddles the boundary between art and life.  In 2013, we invited the Dutch artist Jeanne van Heeswijk to consider what an artist might do in engaging Philadelphia’s many neighborhoods and diverse communities. What began as a conversation has grown, and it has been fascinating—and rewarding—to watch Philadelphia Assembled take on a life of its own. We are looking forward to the moment when our galleries are appropriated to become a stage for the city itself. It promises to be exciting and full of surprises and presents an opportunity to consider how we might define the roles and responsibilities that the Philadelphia Museum of Art can play as a civic institution in a changing city in the 21st century.”

Denise Valentine, a collaborator and Philadelphia storyteller, reflected on this process: “We intend to re-imagine the Philadelphia Museum of Art as a place to unearth stories hidden deep in the soil of Philadelphia. We envision a place where narratives of the enslaved, the incarcerated, the displaced, and the disenfranchised are held in as high esteem as Eurocentric ideas about art, history, and culture.”

Philadelphia Assembled

The project’s five “atmospheres” are described below:

Reconstructions

This atmosphere will assemble personal and collective narratives of mass incarceration and gentrification. Its first site, in the Nicetown/Tioga neighborhood, will be realized in close collaboration with Reconstructions, Inc. and the Alumni Ex Offenders Association. This group will offer programs exploring concepts of home, healing and trauma in relationship to imprisonment and reentry, including a teach-in and a neighborhood-wide procession. At a second site, in South Kensington/Olde Kensington, collaborators are examining the impact of gentrification and displacement, working with the Women’s Community Revitalization Project and Healthy Rowhouse Project to re-imagine a community garden at 4th and Master Streets as a dynamic space for discussion.

Philadelphia Assembled

Sovereignty

Exploring the concepts of self-determination and autonomy, this working group is addressing land sovereignty and cooperative forms of commerce and cultural exchange. Philadelphia Assembled will create a “sovereignty room” at the African Cultural Art Forum on 52nd Street, which will serve as a dedicated space in West Philadelphia for creating unity and cultivating economic sovereignty. Established in 1969, ACAF is a community-based organization that manufactures and sells products by entrepreneurs throughout the African diaspora. In the “sovereignty room” ACAF will host skill trainings and exchanges in preparation for a large public “Sovereignty Marketplace” in June. The second site is envisioned as a network of four urban gardens located in North Philadelphia. Programming and installations across these gardens will inform the ways in which plants, seeds, and land reinforce people’s connection to ancestry and serve as vehicles for nourishment, healing, and future growth. Urban gardens involved include Urban Creators, Norris Square Neighborhood Project Gardens, Fair Hill Burial Grounds, and Stretch and Fly Youth Business Garden.

Philadelphia Assembled

Futures

The Futures atmosphere is drawing from anti-colonial ideas to model different ways of exploring the future and community building. The Futures site is an active mobile project, called the Mobile Futures Institute, which involves retro-fitting a small bus into a flexible work space that will travel throughout the city, engaging in neighborhood-based programs on issues ranging from decolonization, to environmental racism, to economic justice. Collaborators are working with community members and organizations to produce events and happenings via the Mobile Futures Institute. Current partners include the Center for Returning Citizens, Black Quantum Futurism, Friends Center, Granny Peace Brigade Philadelphia, Norris Square Community Alliance, Mighty Writers, and the Indigenous Peoples Day Movement, among others.

Philadelphia Assembled

Sanctuary

This group has proposed a combination of sites that will explore various models of self-care, asylum, and refuge. The larger site will be realized at a central location in Center City. The site structure is a geodesic dome inspired by temporary housing units for refugees in Europe. The space will be open for a month of summer programs, offering a layered definition of sanctuary through storytelling, advocacy, and direct action. In the months leading up to the fixed site, a portable site will host a series of activities working with identified partner organizations to address the provision of LBGTQ safe spaces, issues of immigration and migration, and harm reduction relating to drug use and sex work. Partner organizations include the Attic Youth Center, New Sanctuary Movement, Prevention Point Philadelphia, and Project Safe.

Philadelphia Assembled

Movement

The final atmosphere is one in which the various Philadelphia Assembled working groups intersect. This group is focused on the project’s production, dissemination, and communication, which is manifesting in audio recordings, a dedicated film series, project-specific graphics, an interactive web platform, and site-specific publications. Another component of the Movement atmosphere is the Youth Dream Trust, which will serve as a coalition of youth across the working groups in partnership with the Village of Arts and Humanities. Working closely with Philadelphia-based collective Amber Art and Design, the group will also orchestrate the performative movement of public sites to the Museum. Carrying objects, ideas, and conversations across the city streets, this public movement will culminate in a communal presentation along the ground floor of the Perelman Building, becoming a civic stage where the city is performed.

For Jeanne van Heeswijk, Philadelphia Assembled is a forward-moving process in which she is one among many participants imagining the city’s futures together. She stated: “My work is trying to get to the essence of aesthetics, to understand it as an engaged, inclusive, and proactive practice. This type of work is about using imagination to better understand how we live together. Rising, claiming, rooting, caring, moving – this is how we build a collective exercise of care.”

Philadelphia Assembled

Members of the public are invited to join the conversation and engage with collaborators by visiting the Philadelphia Assembled website and sharing their experiences via #phlassembled @phlassembled @philamuseum.

Program Events

For a full list of public programs and locations, please visit the dedicated website at phlassembled.net. All Philadelphia Assembled programs are free to the public unless noted otherwise.

Philadelphia Assembled

About Jeanne Van Heeswijk

Jeanne van Heeswijk is an artist who facilitates the creation of dynamic and diversified public spaces in order to “radicalize the local.” Her community-embedded projects question art’s autonomy by combining performative actions, discussions, and other forms of organizing and pedagogy in order to work alongside communities to take control of their own futures. Van Heeswijk’s work has been featured in publications and exhibitions worldwide, including the Liverpool, Shanghai, and Venice biennials. Accolades include the receipt of the 2011 Leonore Annenberg Prize for Art and Social Change, the 2012 Curry Stone Prize for Social Design Pioneers, and the 2014 inaugural Keith Haring Fellowship in Art and Activism at the Center for Curatorial Studies and Human Rights Project at Bard College. She lives and works in Rotterdam and Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Assembled

About Social Practice
Social Practice is an art medium that focuses on participation and collaboration with individuals, communities, and institutions in the collective creation of a temporary or permanent community. The process involves careful listening, thoughtful conversation, and community organizing. This is also referred to as socially engaged art, social justice art, community art and new genre public art.

Sponsors

Philadelphia Assembled is made possible by the William Penn Foundation, The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Wyncote Foundation, Nancy M. Berman and Alan Bloch, Lynne and Harold Honickman, Mr. and Mrs. Milton S. Schneider, Constance and Sankey Williams, the Mondriaan Fund, and The Netherland-America Foundation.

Philadelphia Assembled

Collaborators

Philadelphia Assembled is initiated by artist Jeanne van Heeswijk and organized with Carlos Basualdo, The Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Senior Curator of Contemporary Art; Amanda Sroka, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art; Phoebe Bachman, Project Coordinator; and Sheldon Abba, Project Site Manager. Core collaborators include: Amber Art and Design, artist collective; Yana Balson, Associate Director of Exhibition Planning, Philadelphia Museum of Art; Kirtrina Baxter, community organizer and activist grower; Pascale Boucicaut, culinary artist and organizer; Maurits de Bruijn, graphic designer and web developer; Counter Narrative Society (CNS); Helen Cunningham, educator and conflict mediator; Gretchen Dykstra, Senior Marketing Editor, Philadelphia Museum of Art; Morgan Gengo, Marketing and Audience Development Manager, Philadelphia Museum of Art; Shari Hersh, Mural Arts Senior Project Manager and Founder of the Restored Spaces Initiative; Russell Hicks, entrepreneur; in•site collaborative, a research, design, and mapping collective; Nehad Khader, film curator and artist; Jason Killinger, graphic designer; Dianne Loftis, researcher and compiler; Charlotte Lowrey, Project Assistant for the Contemporary Caucus, Philadelphia Museum of Art; Zein Nakhoda, filmmaker; Michael O’Bryan, artist and youth facilitator; People’s Paper Co-op, a collaborative initiative for re-entry; Elisabeth Perez-Luna, journalist and public broadcasting producer; Damon Reaves, Associate Curator of Education, Community Engagement and Access, Philadelphia Museum of Art; Chris Rogers, educator and organizer; Kristin Schwab, community cook and organizer; 75B, design collective; Traction Company, artist collaborative studio; Denise Valentine, storyteller and activist; Phantazia Washington, LGBTQ activist and facilitator; A. M. Weaver, artist and curator; Gee Wesley, artist and curator; Jared Wood, artist; Karina Wratschko, Special Projects Librarian, Philadelphia Museum of Art; and Billy Yalowitz, playwright and community-based performance artist.

Community Partners and Program Hosts

African Cultural Art Forum, Alumni Ex-Offenders Association, The Attic Youth Center, Broad Street Ministry, The Center for Returning Citizens, Coalition for Racial Justice (CoRaJus), Community Futurisms: Time & Memory in North Philly (Community Futures Lab), The Culinary Enterprise Center, Deep Green Philly, The Enterprise Center, Experimental Farm Network, Healthy Rowhouse Project, Historic Fair Hill, Laos in the House, Mighty Writers, MOVE, Mural Arts Philadelphia, New Sanctuary Movement Philadelphia, Norris Square Neighborhood Project, North Central CDC, Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance, Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations, Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities, Prevention Point Philadelphia, Project SAFE, Reconstruction Inc., Soil Generation, Take Back the Night Philadelphia, Ulises, Urban Creators-Life Do Grow Farm, The Village of Arts and Humanities, W/N W/N, and the Women’s Community Revitalization Project.

Locations

In the City: April – July 2017

Movement to the Museum: July – August 2017

Perelman Building, ground floor: September 10–December 10, 2017

Philadelphia Assembled is a project undertaken in collaboration with stakeholders from across the city and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The views expressed by individual participants or in materials developed as part of Philadelphia Assembled are representative of the project’s collective conception and production and are not, necessarily, the views of the Museum or any other individual involved.

Social Media
Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Tumblr/YouTube: @philamuseum @phlassembled

We are Philadelphia’s art museum. We are a landmark building. A world-renowned collection. A place that welcomes everyone. We bring the arts to life, inspiring visitors—through scholarly study and creative play—to discover the spirit of imagination that lies in everyone. We connect people with the arts in rich and varied ways, making the experience of the Museum surprising, lively, and always memorable. We are committed to inviting visitors to see the world—and themselves—anew through the beauty and expressive power of the arts.

For additional information, contact the Communications Department of the Philadelphia Museum of Art phone at 215-684-7860, by fax at 215-235-0050, or by e-mail at pressroom@philamuseum.org.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 26th Street. For general information, call (215) 763-8100.

Thank you to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the content of this post.

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DC>3D

Dave Carrow, DC>3D at Marginal Utility

Dave Carrow, DC>3D at Marginal Utility, Philadelphia

Opening Reception: First Friday, February 3rd from 6:00 – 10:00pm. If you cannot make it to the opening this Friday, you can catch it again on the following First Friday on March 3rd, same times.

Marginal Utility, 319 North 11th Street, 2nd Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19107. Marginal Utility is a non-profit gallery that presents the work of locally and internationally recognized emerging and established artists.

Hours: By Appointment, Saturday + Sunday 12:00 – 5:00pm

Marginal Utility is proud to present DC>3D, a solo exhibition by the New Jersey based artist Dave Carrow.

Dave Carrow has been a friend of MU and its’ predecessors since the beginning, and has exhibited with the curators previously. This is an opportunity to keep that relationship current. Included will be sculpture, hybrids of sculpture/ furniture, related objects, accessories, and photographs.

Artist’s Statement
“I am using a combination of elements; formed/fabricated assemblies which contain kinetic and interactive components, found objects- curiosities and collectibles of various shapes, colors, origins and materials- which are designed and constructed to invite participation, display a sense of humor, and play with the notions of scale and time.” – Dave Carrow

Subscribe to Marginal Utility electronic mail list at: www.marginalutility.org/contact
Follow @mu_inc on Twitter: twitter.com/mu_inc
Facebook: www.facebook.com/marginal.utility

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Out

Out of the Box, Open Juried Art Show at The Plastic Club

Out of the Box, Open Juried Art Show at The Plastic Club

UNLEASH YOUR INNER CREATIVE BEAST AT THE PLASTIC CLUB

The Plastic Club is inviting artists to break new creative ground for the club’s next juried art exhibition. The February show will feature the theme of ‘Out of the Box‘ – highlighting ‘work related to the notion of invention and inspiration’. The exhibition will run from February 5th to February 23rd, with an opening party on Sunday, February 5 from 2 PM to 5 PM.

The prospectus explains that the subject may be ‘personal, political, scientific, or otherwise’. Submitted work may also be ‘a piece that is itself an experiment, new subject matter, or new medium for you as an artist’.

“Some example ideas,” the prospectus explains, would be “a piece that represents a new direction in your practice or features a material or medium that is new for you; a portrait of an inventor or innovative thinker; a depiction of an inspirational place, event, or historical turning point; subject matter about a break in convention; an illustrative or abstract response to any of these concepts.”

The show’s prospectus is downloadable from The Plastic Club‘s website, www.plasticclub.org.

The show’s juror will be interdisciplinary artist Jacob Rivkin, a teacher at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design and a member of Philadelphia’s OOF Collective, an animation collective.

Jacob Rivkin Bio

“I am an interdisciplinary artist living in Philadelphia, PA. I currently teach Fine Art courses in the University of Pennsylvania School of Design and at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. I am currently a member of the OOF Collective. I received my MFA from the University of Pennsylvania in 2013 and BA from Vassar College in 2007. My animations and sculptures focus on understanding how, and if, environments and its geological qualities imbue sentiment and distinct character to its inhabitants.

My animation work has screened at the Animation Block Party in Brooklyn, NY, Vox Populi in Philadelphia, PA, and the Peephole Cinema in San Francisco. My sculptures have been exhibited at the Vancouver Art Gallery in Vancouver, BC, The Chemical Heritage Foundation Museum, Philadelphia, PA, the Arlington Art Center in Arlington, VA and Julius Caesar Gallery in Chicago, IL. Awards include the Juror’s Prize at the 25th Annual McNeese Works on Paper Juried Exhibition in 2012, a Fulbright Grant in 2008 to study Chinese traditional landscape painting in Hangzhou, China, and the Weitzel Barber Art Travel Prize in 2006 to study Buddhist sculpture practices in Western China. In 2014 I was an Artist-in-Residence at the Hacktory in Philadelphia. My studio is located at the Queen Memorial Work Studios in Grays Ferry.” – Jacob Rivkin

The Plastic Club, located on quaint Camac Street, the Avenue of the Artists, was founded in 1897 to promote the visual (plastic) arts. Although initially formed as a women’s group, membership was expanded to include men in 1991. The Plastic Club has over 200 members from the Philadelphia area, long-distance members hail from three continents.

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Form

Charles Sheeler, Michener Art MuseumBobbi Arnst (click photos for large images)

James A. Michener Art Museum Will Present Groundbreaking Exhibition

Charles Sheeler: Fashion, Photography,
and Sculptural Form 

Multimedia retrospective to display never-before-seen photographs from a modernist icon created during his five-year tenure at Condé Nast

DOYLESTOWN, PA – In March 2017, the James A. Michener Art Museum will present Charles Sheeler: Fashion, Photography, and Sculptural Form, a groundbreaking exhibition that features never-before-seen photographs by Charles Sheeler, one of America’s most celebrated modernists. Inspired by Sheeler’s portrait and fashion work for Condé Nast from 1926 to 1931, the multimedia show will feature a significant display of these newly discovered photographs as well as paintings and other photographs created by Sheeler, 1920s fashion ensembles, and Sheeler-designed textiles. Evoking the exuberance, glamour, and promise of the Jazz Age, the exhibition will be on view from March 18 through July 9, 2017.

Charles Sheeler, Michener Art MuseumAldous Huxley

A Philadelphia native, former Doylestown resident, and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts alumnus, Charles Sheeler is one of the founding figures of American modernism. In 1910, Sheeler and fellow artist Morton Schamberg searched for a place to retreat from Philadelphia to sketch. They found a creative and inspirational escape in Doylestown, making their home at the historic Worthington House on Mercer Avenue. It was here, a mile and a half from where the Michener Art Museum now stands, that Sheeler began to explore photography in earnest.

Charles Sheeler, Michener Art MuseumIna Clare as Betsy Ross

Sheeler’s fashion and portrait photography for Condé Nast, however, has been almost universally dismissed as purely commercial, a painter’s “day job,” and nothing more. In reality, this commercial work was instrumental in shaping his aesthetic vision. Trained in an impressionist approach to landscape painting, Sheeler experimented early in his career with compositions inspired by European modernism before developing a linear, hard-edged style now known as Precisionism. While working in this mode, he produced powerful and compelling images of the Machine Age: skyscrapers, factories, and power plants, images that established his reputation as a leading figure in American art. Charles Sheeler: Fashion, Photography, and Sculptural Form will show that his dramatic viewpoints, rhythmic patterning, and abstract compositions were influenced by his work at Condé Nast.

Charles Sheeler, Michener Art MuseumMadame Lasse

“This exhibition will show how Sheeler’s modernist vision was refined over the course of his time at Condé Nast,” said Kirsten M. Jensen, Ph.D., the Gerry & Marguerite Lenfest Chief Curator at the Michener Art Museum and curator of the exhibition. “It was while there he fine-tuned his particular style-objective, distant, and rigorously formal-that he then applied to all of his subsequent work.

The core of the exhibition is 85 portraits and fashion photographs from this period, on loan from the Condé Nast archives. Models adorned in jewels and couture gowns, literary giants of the era, and Broadway actors and Ziegfeld Follies dancers: the subject matter is as sensational as the Jazz Age itself. The exhibition also features select prints from Sheeler’s famous Doylestown House series as well as his photographs of modern sculpture and early portraiture, the film Manhatta (a collaboration with Paul Strand), period costumes on loan from the collections of the Museum of the City of New York and Drexel University’s Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection, and paintings and photographs on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Columbus Museum of Art, Yale University Art Gallery, Princeton University Art Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and other major institutions.

Charles Sheeler, Michener Art MuseumHelen Menken

“The James A. Michener Art Museum is an especially relevant venue for Charles Sheeler: Fashion, Photography, and Sculptural Form considering Sheeler’s strong ties to the region,” said Lisa Tremper Hanover, director and CEO of the Michener Art Museum. “We’re thrilled to present this unknown body of work in Doylestown, where Sheeler made his first important photographs.”

Complementing the exhibit will be programming that includes lectures, curator talks, a Scholars Day, a film series, musical performances, and a New York-based symposium. For the full schedule, visit the exhibition website at CharlesSheeler.org.

Advance tickets and group tours for Charles Sheeler: Photography, Fashion, and Sculptural Form are available at MichenerArtMuseum.org or by calling 215.340.9800.

A member reception will be held on the evening of March 17, 2017, the day before the exhibition opens for public view. To become a Michener Art Museum member and receive an invitation, visit MichenerArtMuseum.org or call 215.340.9800 x110.

Major support for Charles Sheeler: Fashion, Photography, and Sculptural Form has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with further support from The Coby Foundation, Ltd., Visit Bucks County, an anonymous donor, and the Bucks County Foundation.

Additional funding has been provided by Bonnie J. O’Boyle and Virginia W. Sigety, Independent cabi Stylist.

In-kind support is generously provided by Condé Nast Editions.

About the James A. Michener Art Museum

The James A. Michener Art Museum collects, preserves, interprets and exhibits American art, and promotes the work of nationally and internationally known Delaware Valley artists of all eras and creative disciplines. The museum presents exhibitions that explore a variety of artistic expressions and offers diverse educational programs that develop a lifelong involvement in the arts. Throughout the year, the Michener Art Museum hosts a wide range of programs open to the public, including lectures, artists conversations, gallery talks, artist studio tours, dance performances, jazz performances, family-themed activities, and other events. The museum also offers diverse selection of art classes for children and adults, which include instruction in drawing, painting, sculpting, and printmaking as well as programs for the public, schools, and teachers designed to support arts education. The James A. Michener Art Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.

The James A. Michener Art Museum is located at 138 South Pine St., Doylestown, PA. The Museum is open Tuesday through Friday, 10:00 am – 4:30 pm; Saturday, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm; and Sunday, noon – 5:00 pm. For more information, visit MichenerArtMuseum.org or call 215.340.9800.

Twitter: @MichenerArt

Facebook: MichenerArtMuseum

Instagram: michenerart

Thank you to Christine Triantos, James A. Michener Art Museum, Associate Director, Marketing and Communications for the content of this post.

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Star

David Bowie, Queer Star, Jimmi Schrode

Queer Star, David Bowie and Gender Anarchy

by Jimmi Shrode

At the age of 10, I had discovered David Bowie in the pages of 16 Magazine. The wholesome safe pop idols; David Cassidy, The Osmonds and The Jackson 5 were giving way to the Glam Rockers; Lou Reed, Alice Cooper and David Bowie. Bowie was the ring leader with a shocking vermillion rooster cut and tight satin pants. With shocking blue eyeshadow highlighting his mismatched eyes and lipstick, he lead the way for the Sexual Revolution by way of Gender Anarchy and Queerness.

As David Jones, young Bowie couldn’t get arrested with a string of forgettable Anthony Newley meets The Beatles songs that were too twee. Later he would don a maxi dress and sing folkish rock songs, some notice but not quite. The novelty of ‘Space Oddity‘ coincided with America’s Moon Landing brought minor fame, introducing us to Major Tom, an astronaut lost forever in the stars. It was Ziggy Stardust, a rock and roll messiah who came just in time for the end of the world to lead us to Mars, the world of Sexual Chaos. David had announced he was Gay despite being in a marriage with Angie Bowie and son Zowie (now filmmaker Duncan Jones). Bowie was launched into the stratosphere.

David Bowie, Queer Star, Jimmi Schrode

Bowie became godlike and seduced the teens of Britain and America. A clever ruse in an age where news traveled slowly. Bowie arrived on the shores of America with an entourage, claiming great status abroad in Europe. The record executives bought it all. Global success at last. Bowie’s androgyny smashed into the world of suburbia here in the USA and abroad. Queerness was on sale in a record shop near you. Boys dressed in make up and mom’s cast-offs, skinny jeans and experimented with each other leaving lipstick traces. Girls swooned for this Queer Elvis. Adults were dismayed. What was dirty and whispered about in secret was now wrapped up in Japanese Modernist Fashion and Kabuki via the LSD dreams of Timothy Leary, strutting under the spotlights for all the world to see.

Bowie rediscovered Lou Reed, Andy Warhol’s Superstar and leader of the Velvet Underground. The Velvet Underground had inspired Bowie when the Exploding Plastic Inevitable made it to the UK. The psychedelic multimedia show of music, lights and art inspired David Jones. Ever the avid student; he absorbed it and made it his own. His alchemy would extend into the music world and reinvent others as it had himself.

Iggy Pop, the sweaty, muscular singer with a proto-punk band The Stooges, was now clad in tight Lurex pants and had black eyeliner, mascara and lipstick. Bowie took Iggy into the studio and allegedly into his bedroom. Bowie’s aesthetic wiped off onto Lou Reed who now dressed in makeup and leather. Reed had taken a walk onto the Wild Side.

As he retired the glitter and paint in favor of Soul Boy clothes, the label of Queerness became an albatross. While good for breaking through indifference into Rock and Roll, rock was still a boy’s club. Even though some of them adopted Bowie’s fey ways, they were still hetero-normative. Bowie, addicted to cocaine and becoming increasingly paranoid retreated further away from Ziggy Stardust. With slicked back blonde hair, classic 30’s suits and a cigarette, he became the nihilistic Thin White Duke. Then Bowie made the famous Hitler Salute in Victoria Station, casting up shadows of fascism. It was apropos. Fascism had destroyed the Weimar Era Drag for the sturm und drang of masculinity.

David Bowie, Queer Star, Jimmi Schrode

As a chameleon, Bowie further reinvented himself and in the 1980’s had a renaissance into New Wave Music. Still, the shadow of homosexuality clung to him. Disavowing and ignoring it, yet, always present. Some Gay People felt betrayed that their idol who led them out of the closet had returned to the closet. It was a fearsome time when Reagan and Thatcher conservatism and AIDS ravaged Gay Liberation.

David Bowie always endured and was relevant in every decade nonetheless. The 90’s saw collaborations with Trent Reznor and Dr. Dre. In the Aughts; Bowie became the crooner he had been with his smash album Heathen. Then he dropped out of sight after a heart attack only to reemerge in time for his final curtain calls with his albums The Next Day and Blackstar. Blackstar saw the artist use his own impending death to craft his final statement, dying soon after.

David Bowie, Queer Star, Jimmi Schrode

To me and many others; Bowie’s act of Sexual Rebellion had forever changed us, bringing a deeper understanding of gender, sexuality and self-expression. Bowie’s image as Ziggy Stardust remains cemented in our psyche. Often copied and rebranded, a white faced Bowie with a bold red and blue lighting bolt in the center of his face crowned with orange hair is how we remember him most; the Queer Bowie. Our Queer Star.

Written by Jimmi Shrode

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