In addition to his music, David Bowie was also reported to be a true gentleman; incredibly well educated in the arts, culture, and history; and genuinely interested in others.

I was lucky enough to see David Bowie Is when it was in Chicago, and my thoughts from that exhibition appear below.

Album cover shoot for Aladdin Sane, 1973
Design: Brian Duffy and Celia Philo; make up: Pierre La Roche
Photo: Brian Duffy
Photo: Duffy © Duffy Archive and the David Bowie Archive

This retrospective of David Bowie’s amazing career ran in Chicago from September 23, 2014–January 4, 2015. I enjoyed his music, but was not the world’s biggest fan of David Bowie before this exhibit. However seeing his archive gave me a new appreciation for the man. The range of his talent astounded me, but what struck me most about him as an artist was the combination of his fearlessness and his hard work.

The show includes 60 costumes, numerous storyboards, handwritten set lists and lyrics, and some of Bowie’s own sketches, musical scores, and diary entries. Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art has so far been the only U.S. venue for the exhibition, which was organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. It is currently in the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands through March of 2016, and should be in Japan—though I don’t know where exactly—in 2017.

Of course, his music has been running through my head since his passing. I’m grateful for the music, acting, and design, of course. But what stays with me is all he did—and he was conscious and intentional about doing it—to promote “oddity.”

Whatever tolerance that’s finally being extended to people who don’t hew to a conventional, static view of gender or sexuality owes something to the courage David Bowie displayed decades ago.

Here’s the link to an entertaining conversation he had with Lin Brehmer of WXRT-FM in Chicago, which I’ve always enjoyed.


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