Last weekend I had the pleasure of hitting up the Art Gallery of Ontario (aka the AGO) in the city. Amidst the beautiful exhibits of paintings, photographs and sculptures (I saw, among other things, works by Van Gogh, Picasso, Emily Carr and O’Keefe), there was one attraction that caught my interest imensely. That would be the David Bowie is… exhibit, running from now until November 27th. This is the first North American stop for the exhibit, on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It coveres the many decades Mr. Bowie has been a pop culture icon, from the 1960s to today, and all the work he’s done in music, movies, fashion, painting, etc. In short, it was super cool, just like the man himself.
Allow me to bring you up to speed for all of you who may not be familiar with Bowie. He was born David Jones in 1947, and during his teens he began to break out with the wave of musicians coming out of Britain in the 1960s. He really began to leave his mark during the Glam Rock era of the 70s and 80s. He was basically like Madonna or Lady Gaga way before creating personas, being androgynous, changing your musical tastes, borrowing from lots of different art styles and being completely wacky was cool. He paved the way for all of that. He’s created a lot of different names for himself; Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke, etc. He’s acted in several movies. He’s used Kabuki Theater, Mime, Gospel, Berlin Dance Hall and other styles as influence. One of his quotes I saw at the exhibit says it best; that he doesn’t just want to be a radio, he wants to be a color television.
To give you a taste, here’s a few of his songs, starting with one of my very favorites, a song that actually had a TV series named after it.
Here’s a fun fact for you. A lot of people think Bowie has heterochromia, which is a fancy way of saying two different colored eyes. In reality, as you can see from the video in close ups, both of his eyes are blue, but the pupil of his left eye is dilated. This happened back in 1962 when a friend of his punched him in the eye in a fight over a girl. After a series of operations doctors saved his eye, but the damage was permanent, and his pupil is now forever dilated. So from a distance it looks like his left eye is brown. Interesting enough, he stayed friends with the guy who punched him, and that friend went on to design some of Bowie’s early album covers. Anyway, fun fact.
Next up is one of the best songs ever to get dressed to.
Next is a scene from A Knight’s Tale, which proves that Bowie’s music belongs as much in a medieval dance hall as anywhere.
And, for a more modern take, here’s the Glee cast singing “Heroes”.
There are soooo many more songs, too many to put here. You can check out some of his albums at the library.
But I gotta add one more, and at the same time give a shout-out to Bowie’s movie career. He’s had small and starring roles in over 20 movies, such as The Prestige and Zoolander. But there’s one movie that fantasy fans love with a passion, and that’s Labyrinth, in which Bowie plays Jareth, the Goblin King.
The movie was created by Jim Henson, and features puppets, 80s music and a young Jennifer Connely. It’s weird and wonderful. Here’s the official video for one of Bowie’s songs from the film.
So there’s a little taste. With a music and pop art career spanning about 50 years, there’s much more to see. Bowie appeals to the ground-breakers, the definers, the freaks and the ecclectics in all of us.
So let that freak flag fly.