“Gimme a freak any day of the week…i’m comfortable with those you call demented.” – Boy George
Leigh Bowery, one of my favorite fashion icons (right up there with Anna Piaggi), original club kid, transgender pioneer, and performance artist extraordinaire died on New Year’s Eve in 1994. A fact I learned by accident yesterday (New Year’s Eve). The coincidence, like that of encountering the crow the year before (see previous post), has prompted me to select him as my inspirational muse for 2013. After ringing in the New Year nude in bed while Skype-ing with my always bawdy and bold LA artist pal, Mark Verabioff, and receiving such a positive response on Facebook to my post about Bowery, it all seemed to fit somehow (visions of he and Nicola dancing in my head).
I’ve still got to gestate on how and in what ways Bowery’s life and spirit can guide and motivate the New Year, but I’m pretty sure BOLDNESS and FEARLESSNESS are the operative words. As Barbara Ellen describes him in the Guardian: “Gay, 6ft 3ins, and 17 stone, Leigh was hardly the shy, retiring type. At one party, Mick Jagger, thinking Bowery was dancing too close to him, said: ‘Fuck off, freak!’ Leigh instantly replied: ‘Fuck off, fossil!'” Brilliant and daunting!
But its not so much about being outrageous, I don’t think, as it is about persistence and commitment to a vision of oneself, and a life led accordingly. One of the things that stood to me about Bowery in Charlie Atlas’s wonderful documentary, The Legend of Leigh Bowery (2002), which you can watch online, was how much time he spent getting ready to go out, regardless of the outcome (ie., even if he never MADE it out).
In other words, he took elaborate pleasure in the PROCESS of just becoming, creating, and embodying his self-vision. I have thought a lot about this idea of enjoying and being present in the nowness of any given moment (Buddhist influence), and of embracing the process, the ACT of trying as worthy in and of itself. Essentially letting that be enough without always factoring in the possible outcome, or lack thereof, ie. the potential “success” of one’s efforts before endeavoring to realize one’s vision (I’m using that word loosely, but hopefully you get my meaning).
Even when lounging at home (his council flat in London), Bowery exerted his presence in the world.
For those unfamiliar with this GENIUS Aussie talent, obviously I recommend you watch Atlas’s film, and read Leigh Bowery (Violette Editions, 1998), which has a greatforeword by Hilton Als and witty afterward by Boy George. It was also my first intensive look at his life and work. The fabulous Sue Tilley, model, muse (for Lucian Freud as well), and close friend of Bowery’s has also written a memoir/biography about him. Here’s a recorded talk she did in honor of Bowery’s 50th birthday at London’s ICA
Lastly, I’ve included a link here to SuperRadNow, a blog whose post on Bowery follows one about the amazing British choreographer, Michael Clark, with whom Bowery often collaborated (musical score by The Fall). And in an ironic turn, here’s an audio snippet of Bowery telling someone “You’ve been a great inspiration to me.”
Whatever your muse of symbol or mantra for the New Year, may it guide and inspire all your dreams, and lead you to a truer vison of the REAL YOU! Because if there’s one message I know Leigh would send me its: FUCK WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!