Top Models Impersonating Bowie

Hannelore Knuts as David Bowie in fashion editorial Rock the House, photographed by Steven Meisel. US Vogue, 2001

 

Kate Moss portraying Bowie’s Aladdin Sane for Vogue UK. May 2003. Photo by Nick Knight

 

Raquel Zimmermann in Girl Meets Boy  by David Sims,  June 2010

 

Editorial: Androgyne
Magazine: Vogue Paris October 2010
Model: Iselin Steiro
Photographer: David Sims
Stylist: Emmanuelle Alt

 

Edita Vilkeviciute in Numéro #123rd issue, May 2011

 

Kate Moss portraying Ziggy Stardust for Vogue Paris.  December 2011/January 2012. Photo by Alas & Piggott

 

Daphne Guinness. Photo by Brian Adams for German Vogue, January 2013 issue

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The Ghost of the Rose

“Soulève ta paupière close
Qu’effleure un songe virginal ;
Je suis le spectre d’une rose
Que tu portais hier au bal.
Tu me pris encore emperlée
Des pleurs d’argent de l’arrosoir,
Et parmi la fête étoilée
Tu me promenas tout le soir.

Ô toi qui de ma mort fus cause,
Sans que tu puisses le chasser
Toute la nuit mon spectre rose
A ton chevet viendra danser.
Mais ne crains rien, je ne réclame
Ni messe, ni De Profundis ;
Ce léger parfum est mon âme
Et j’arrive du paradis.

Mon destin fut digne d’envie :
Pour avoir un trépas si beau,
Plus d’un aurait donné sa vie,
Car j’ai ta gorge pour tombeau,
Et sur l’albâtre où je repose
Un poète avec un baiser
Ecrivit : Ci-gît une rose
Que tous les rois vont jalouser”

Théophile Gautier

 

_____________________________

 

“Open your closed eyelid
Which is gently brushed by a virginal dream!
I am the ghost of the rose
That you wore last night at the ball.
You took me when I was still sprinkled with pearls
Of silvery tears from the watering-can,
And, among the sparkling festivities,
You carried me the entire night.

O you, who caused my death:
Without the power to chase it away,
You will be visited every night by my ghost,
Which will dance at your bedside.
But fear nothing; I demand
Neither Mass nor De Profundis;
This mild perfume is my soul,
And I’ve come from Paradise.

My destiny is worthy of envy;
And to have a fate so fine,
More than one would give his life
For on your breast I have my tomb,
And on the alabaster where I rest,
A poet with a kiss
Wrote: “Here lies a rose,
Of which all kings may be jealous.”

 

Illustrations by Jean Cocteau, 1912.Le Spectre de la rose is a short ballet about a young girl who dreams of dancing with the spirit of a souvenir rose from her first ball.

 

In 1911, Ballet Russes producer Sergei Diaghilev hoped to present Vaslav Nijinsky‘s ballet L’Après-midi d’un faune. It was not ready for the stage, so he needed another ballet to take its place. That ballet was the idea of writer Jean-Louis Vaudoyer. In 1910, he had sent an idea for a ballet to Ballets Russes set and costume designer Léon Bakst. His idea was based on Le Spectre de la rose, a verse by Théophile Gautier, and Afforderung zum Tanz (Invitation to the Dance), a work for piano by Carl Maria von Weber. Diaghilev liked Vaudoyer’s idea. He thought it could easily take the place of Faune. He put Vaudoyer’s idea into development at once. Diaghilev liked the idea of a ballet based on Gautier’s Spectre because it could be tied to the centennial of Gautier’s birth. Michel Fokine choreographed the ballet to the music of Carl Maria von Weber’s piano piece as orchestrated by Hector Berlioz in 1841. The little ballet became one of the most loved productions of the Ballets Russes.

 

 

Nijinsky’s silk elastic costume was covered with silk rose petals. Nijinsky was stitched into the costume for every show. After every show, the wardrobe mistress would touch up the petals with her curling iron.

Nijinsky’s make-up was an important part of the costume design. Romula de Pulszky, later to be his wife, wrote that he looked like “a celestial insect, his eyebrows suggesting some beautiful beetle”. Peter Ostwald writes that Nijinsky’s costume was like a ballerina’s.

Sometimes, petals would become loose and fall to the stage floor. Nijinsky’s servant Vasili would collect the petals and sell them as souvenirs. It was said that he built a large house called Le Château du Spectre de la Rose with the profits from the sale of the petals.

 

 

The ballet was first presented in Monte Carlo on 19 April 1911. Nijinsky danced The Rose and Tamara Karsavina danced The Young Girl. It was a great success. Spectre became internationally famous for the spectacular leap Nijinsky made through a window at the ballet’s end.

Many dancers have attempted to match Nijinsky as The Rose, but have failed. After all, the ballet had been designed for Nijinsky’s very special talents.

 

 

It was one of the first ballets Rudolph Nureyev danced in the West after leaving Russia. This was for German television in 1961. He first danced The Rose on stage (24 times) in New York City for the Joffrey Ballet’s Diaghilev program in 1979. Spectre de la Rose was the last ballet Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn danced together. That was in June 1979, when the ballerina was 60. He danced The Rose in Paris in 1981 and 1982, and last danced the part in August 1987 at the London Coliseum with the Nancy Ballet.

In Girl’s Clothing

Little Rainer Maria Rilke

 

René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke(4 December 1875 – 29 December 1926), better known as Rainer Maria Rilke, was born in Prague, capital of Bohemia (then part of Austria-Hungary, now the Czech Republic). His childhood and youth in Prague were not especially happy. His father, Josef Rilke (1838–1906), became a railway official after an unsuccessful military career. His mother, Sophie (“Phia”) Entz (1851–1931), came from a well-to-do Prague family, the Entz-Kinzelbergers, who lived in a house on the Herrengasse (Panská) 8, where René also spent many of his early years. The relationship between Phia and her only son was colored by her mourning for an earlier child, a daughter who had died only one week old. During Rilke’s early years Phia acted as if she sought to recover the lost girl through the boy by dressing him in girl’s clothing. His parents’ marriage failed in 1884. His parents pressured the poetically and artistically talented youth into entering a military academy, which he attended from 1886 until 1891, when he left owing to illness.

He skillfully foiled his father’s martial expectations, and lack of funds freed the aspiring poet from his family’s next plans for him: law school. In fact, though he attended several universities, soaking up lectures on diverse subjects throughout his life, he never graduated from any of them. About such a practical matter as a sheepskin, the finest German lyricist since Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote as an adolescent, “And even if I never reach my Arts degree / I’m still a scholar, as I wished to be.”

Where the Story Really Starts

The Man Who Sold the World is the third studio album by David Bowie, originally released on Mercury Records in November 1970 in the US, and in April 1971 in the UK. The album was Bowie’s first with the nucleus of what would become the Spiders from Mars, the backing band made famous by The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in 1972. Though author David Buckley has described Bowie’s previous record David Bowie (Space Oddity) as “the first Bowie album proper”, NME critics Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray have said of The Man Who Sold the World, “this is where the story really starts”. Departing from the folk music of Bowie’s debut album, The Man Who Sold the World is a hard rock and heavy metal album. It has been claimed that this album’s release marks the birth of glam rock.

The album was written and rehearsed at David Bowie’s home in Haddon Hall, Beckenham, an Edwardian mansion converted to a block of flats that was described by one visitor as having an ambience “like Dracula‘s living room”. As Bowie was preoccupied with his new wife Angie at the time, the music was largely arranged by guitarist Mick Ronson and bassist/producer Tony Visconti. Although Bowie is officially credited as the composer of all music on the album, biographers such as Peter Doggett have marshaled evidence to the contrary, quoting Visconti saying “the songs were written by all four of us. We’d jam in a basement, and Bowie would just say whether he liked them or not.”

Much of the album had a distinct heavy metal edge that distinguishes it from Bowie’s other releases, and has been compared to contemporary acts such as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. The record also provided some unusual musical detours, such as the title track’s use of Latin rhythms to hold the melody. The sonic heaviness of the album was matched by the subject matter, which included insanity (All the Madmen), gun-toting assassins and Vietnam War commentary (Running Gun Blues), an omniscient computer (Saviour Machine), and Lovecraftian Elder Gods (The Supermen). The song She Shook Me Cold was an explanation of a heterosexual encounter. The album has also been seen as reflecting the influence of such figures as Aleister Crowley, Franz Kafka and Friedrich Nietzsche.

 
 

The original 1970 US release of The Man Who Sold the World employed a cartoon-like cover drawing by Bowie’s friend Michael J. Weller, featuring a cowboy in front of the Cane Hill mental asylum

 
 

 
 

The first UK cover, on which Bowie is seen reclining in a Mr Fish “man’s dress”, was an early indication of his interest in exploiting his androgynous appearance. The dress was designed by British fashion designer Michael Fish, and Bowie also used it in February 1971 on his first promotional tour to the United States, where he wore it during interviews despite the fact that the Americans had no knowledge of the as yet unreleased UK cover. It has been said that his “bleached blond locks, falling below shoulder level”, were inspired by a Pre-Raphaelite painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Monsters and Marilyns

CS Lewis once said “How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been”. This was the primary thought behind the series Monsters and Marilyns. Throughout history Fascists, Communists, Marxists, and Socialists have murdered and oppressed those who were under their rule, yet popular culture and propaganda have tried to make these monsters into heros and icons. Twisting peoples memories and brainwashing them into an Orwellian nightmare.

Andy Warhol’s silkscreen painting of Marilyn Monroe is one of the most iconic painting of the Pop Art Movement. Not many people know that the painting was meant to show the mask of popularity that a celebrity wears. On the outside there were different shades of happiness, but under all the paint and smiles there was something darker: depression, drug use, and suicide. I took this idea and reinterpreted it to speak truth into our popular culture. The hair and make-up from the Marilyn Monroe painting is placed on politicians, dictators, public officials, as well as old horror movie monsters that are liars, murderers, and tyrants. By doing this the statement is made that no matter how much popular culture or the mass media tries to dress up and beautify these people, they are still monsters. Saddam Hussein, Barack Obama, Frankenstein, Dracula, Stalin, Lenin, Che Guevara, Ho Chi Minh, Bill Clinton, Pin Head, Leather Face, Barney Frank, Mao Zedong, the Bride of Frankenstein, Hitler, Hannibal Lecter, Jack (the character from Stanley Kubrick‘s The Shining),  and Jesse Jackson are only some of the people that I have Marilynized.

My goal is to force people to look past the media hype and celebrity masks of these people and see them for who they really are. Much like in George Orwell’s masterpiece 1984, people are too willing to give up their freedom and liberty to be taken care of and protected by the Government. They will believe anything that they are told to believe even if they know its a lie because they do not want to know the truth. As a society, we want to be lied to, we want to think that everything is normal even when it is crashing down around us. We want to believe in people even though they give us empty promises and lies every time they open their mouths. We need to wake up and realize that lying to ourselves does not change reality. We must recognize and accept truth. The truth will set you free, but it will not make you sleep easy at night.

Therefore, by linking monsters to the mask-wearing Marilyn Monroe that Andy Warhol portrayed, I demonstrate that things are not what they seem. They are a mask, a lie, a perversion of the truth to allow people to lie to themselves in order to feel secure.”

Jesse Lenz

 
 

Series by Jesse Lenz, 2009

Covered Up in Pink

“Apart from the two side seams the dress was folded into shape rather like cardboard. Any other girl would have looked like she was wearing cardboard, but on-screen I swear you would have thought Marilyn had on a pale, thin piece of silk. Her body was so fabulous it still came through.”

William Travilla

 
 

Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend number, from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Howard Hawks, 1953)

 
 

This wasn’t the dress designed for this scene. William Travilla had designed a breathtaking show girl costume with jewels sewn onto a black fish-net body stocking up to the breasts, then covered in nude fabric, embellished with a mass of diamonds, costing close to $4,000. It never got past the cutting room floor. It was rejected because it came out that Marilyn has posed nude for a calendar back in 1949 (the infamous Golden Dreams photographed by Tom Kelley), when Marilyn was desperate for money. And instead of riding on the revelation, Travilla was given strict instructions to cover Marilyn up.

 
 

 
 

It was rejected because it came out that Marilyn has posed nude for a calendar back in 1949 (the infamous Golden Dreams photographed by Tom Kelley), when Marilyn was desperate for money. And instead of riding on the revelation, Travilla was given strict instructions to cover Marilyn up.

 
 

 
 

The original concept for the new dress included black gloves and shoes, and no one is sure why they became pink, but Travilla redid his sketch to show pink gloves. When people see the actual dress they often remark that in real life is lighter than it appears in the movie. That is easily explained by the use of glorious Technicolor according to Travilla himself, not only did he have to design the dress, but he had to make sure he got the fabric right, as Technicolor would make it appear more vibrant on film.

This dress was made out of peau d’ange, a sort of silk satin. The aim was to show the outline of the body, but for the dress to move with the body and not crease – which was rather difficult when Marilyn was moving up and down the stairs. Eventually the silk satin was glued onto felt, with a black lining added to the back, to give it a stiffness.

 
 

Marilyn Monroe’s rendition of the song Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend and her pink dress are considered iconic, and the performance has inspired homages by Madonna (Material Girl music video) , Geri Halliwell, Kylie Minogue,  Anna Nicole Smith, Christina Aguilera, and James Franco (Oscar 2011).

From Concept to Cult

 
 

In “Rocky Horror; From Concept to Cult“, designer Sue Blane discusses the Rocky Horror costumes’ influence on punk music style. “[It was a] big part of the build up [to punk].” She states that ripped fishnet stockings, glitter and coloured hair were directly attributable to Rocky Horror.

 
 

 
 

Some of the costumes from the film had been originally used in the stage production. Props and set pieces were reused from old Hammer productions and others. The tank and dummy used for Rocky’s birth originally appeared in The Revenge of Frankenstein. These references to older productions, in addition to cutting costs, enhanced the status of the film.
Costume designer Sue Blane wasn’t keen on designing for the film until she realized Tim Curry, an old friend, was doing the show. Tim and Blane had worked together in Glasgow’s Citizen Theatre in a production of The Maids, where Curry had worn a woman’s corset in the production. Blane arranged it with the theatre to loan her the corset from the other production for Rocky Horror. Blane admits that she did not conduct research for her designing and had never seen a science fiction film, and is acutely aware that her costumes for Brad and Janet may have been generalizations.

 
 


Tim Curry’s character Dr. Frankenfurter is dressed in a style similar to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ when the main characters first come up to his lab.

Who the Fuck is Pierre Laroche?

Pierre Laroche photographed by Brian Duffy, 1973

 
 

Tim Curry and Peter Robb-King (assistant makeup artist to Pierre La Roche on The Rocky Horror Picture Show). In the stage productions, actors generally did their own makeup. However, for the film, the producers chose Pierre La Roche, who had previously been a makeup artist for Mick Jagger, to redesign the makeup for each character. Production stills were taken by rock photographer Mick Rock, who has published a number of books from his work.

 
 

The astral sphere make-up on Bowie’s forehead was designed by Laroche for the Ziggy Stardust persona. Ziggy’s make up on stage also had a lot of Kabuki influences.

 
 

David Bowie, rare outtake from Aladdin Sane photo session by Brian Duffy, 1973

 
 

Make-up for Life on Mars? music video (Mick Rock, 1971)

 
 

Pin Ups (1973), the seventh album by David Bowie, containing cover versions of songs. The woman on the cover with Bowie is 1960s supermodel Twiggy in a photograph taken by her then-manager Justin de Villeneuve. It was taken in Paris for Vogue magazine, but at Bowie’s request, used for the album instead

 
 

Mick Jagger put himself on the hands of Laroche during the Rolling Stones Tour of the Americas, 1975. Photo: Christopher Simon Sykes

 
 

Mick Jagger leans on his stylist Pierre Laroche during the Rolling Stones Tour of the Americas, 1975. Laroche wears a t-shirt with the slogan ‘Who the Fuck is Mick Jagger?’ Photo by Christopher Simon Sykes

 
 

Following a lonely childhood in exotic Algiers, Pierre Laroche moved to France and then England, where he became the star make-up artist at Elizabeth Arden in London. Quitting after five years when the company insisted he become more conservative, Laroche went freelance and was soon contracted by rock stars David Bowie and Mick Jagger, who drew upon Laroche’s talent while he continued to do make-up for British fashion magazines, celebrities, and movie stars. During the sixties, inspired by the Arab women of his homeland who painted their eyes black with khool, Laroche popularized black eye-shadow and originated the glitter look. Later, he moved to America, where he reorganized his professional approach to include make-up for all kinds of women—and men. Though he recently did Bianca Jagger’s make-up for the cover of People magazine, Elsa Peretti’s make-up for Helmut Newton’s photograph of her in the April 4 issues of Newsweek, and has worked with Nona Hendryx on major make-up projects, Laroche is equally interested in designing make-up for the “average woman”. Intent on contributing to the American chic, Laroche asserts, “I have lived through the sixties in England. Now I’m getting ready to face the eighties in America.”

They Came From Denton High

 
 

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a 1975 musical comedy horror film directed by Jim Sharman. The screenplay was written by Sharman and Richard O’Brien based on the 1973 eponymous musical stage production, also written by O’Brien. The production is a humorous tribute to the science fiction and horror B movies of the late 1930s through early 1970s. It stars Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick along with cast members from the original Royal Court Theatre, Roxy Theatre and Belasco Theatre productions. The film production retains many aspects from the stage version such as production design and music, but features new scenes added not in the stage play. The originally proposed opening sequence was to contain clips of various films mentioned in the lyrics, as well as the first few sequences shot in black and white, but this was deemed too expensive, and scrapped.

Although largely ignored upon release, it soon gained notoriety as a midnight movie when audiences began participating with the film at the Waverly Theater in New York City in 1976. Audience members returned to the cinemas frequently and talked back to the screen and began dressing as the characters, spawning similar performance groups across the United States. Still in limited release nearly four decades after its premiere, it has the longest-running theatrical release in film history. Today, the film has a large international cult following and is one of the most well-known and financially successful midnight movies of all time.

Richard O’Brien, a Briton raised in New Zealand, was living in London as an unemployed actor in the early 1970s. He wrote most of The Rocky Horror Show during one winter just to occupy himself. Since his youth, O’Brien had loved science fiction and B horror movies. He wanted to combine elements of the unintentional humour of B horror movies, portentous dialogue of schlock-horror, Steve Reeves muscle flicks and fifties rock and roll into his musical.

 
 

Dr. Frank N Furter (Tim Curry) displays Rocky (Peter Hinwood), his Adonis-like humanoid creation, to visitors Janet (Susan Sarandon) and Brad (Barry Bostwick)

 
 

O’Brien showed a portion of the unfinished script to Australian director Jim Sharman, who decided to direct it at the small experimental space Upstairs at the Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, Chelsea, which was used as a project space for new work. O’Brien had appeared briefly in Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s Jesus Christ Superstar, directed by Sharman and the two also worked together in Sam Shepard‘s The Unseen Hand. Sharman would bring in production designer Brian Thomson. The original creative team was then rounded out by costume designer Sue Blane and musical director Richard Hartley, and stage producer Michael White was also brought in to produce. As the musical went into rehearsal, the working title, They Came from Denton High, was changed just before previews at the suggestion of Sharman to The Rocky Horror Show.

An Elegy on the Death of Keats and Brian Jones

Adonaïs: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats, Author of Endymion, Hyperion, etc. /ˌædɵˈneɪ.ɨs/, also spelled Adonaies, is a pastoral elegy written by Percy Bysshe Shelley for John Keats in 1821, and widely regarded as one of Shelley’s best and most well-known works. The poem, which is in 495 lines in 55 Spenserian stanzas, was composed in the spring of 1821 immediately after 11 April, when Shelley heard of Keats’ death (seven weeks earlier). The title of the poem is likely a merging of the Greek “Adonis”, the god of fertility, and the Hebrew “Adonai” (meaning “Lord”). Most critics suggest that Shelley used Virgil‘s tenth Eclogue, in praise of Cornelius Gallus, as a model.

 
 

Dressed in a gender-bending white poet’s robe, Jagger quoted Shelley in memory of bandmate Brian Jones at the Stones in the Park concert in 1969. Photo by Mike Randolph

 
 

Before an audience estimated at 250,000 to 300,000, Jagger read the following verses from Adonais:

 
 

“Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep
He hath awakened from the dream of life
‘Tis we, who lost in stormy visions, keep
With phantoms an unprofitable strife,
And in mad trance, strike with our spirit’s knife
Invulnerable nothings. — We decay
Like corpses in a charnel; fear and grief
Convulse us and consume us day by day,
And cold hopes swarm like worms within our living clay.

The One remains, the many change and pass;
Heaven’s light forever shines, Earth’s shadows fly;
Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,
Stains the white radiance of Eternity,
Until Death tramples it to fragments. — Die,
If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek!
Follow where all is fled!”

Perfectly Satisfactory

Hunky Dory gave me a fabulous groundswell. I guess it provided me, for the first time in my life, with an actual audience – I mean, people actually coming up to me and saying, ‘Good album, good songs.’ That hadn’t happened to me before. It was like, ‘Ah, I’m getting it, I’m finding my feet. I’m starting to communicate what I want to do. Now: what is it I want to do?’ There was always a double whammy there.”

David Bowie

 
 

Hunky Dory is the fourth album by English singer-songwriter David Bowie, released by RCA Records in 1971. It was his first release through RCA, which would be his label for the next decade. Hunky Dory has been described by Allmusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine as having “a kaleidoscopic array of pop styles, tied together only by Bowie’s sense of vision: a sweeping, cinematic mélange of high and low art, ambiguous sexuality, kitsch, and class.” The slang hunky dory (of uncertain origin), would mean perfectly satisfactory, about as well as one could wish or expect; fine

 
 

The style of the album cover was influenced by a Marlene Dietrich photo book that Bowie brought with him to the photo session, which was taken by Brian Ward. Terry Pastor achieved the silk-screen printing appearance in the manner of Andy Warhol, using an airbrush. However,  the album’s sleeve would bear the credit “Produced by Ken Scott (assisted by the actor)”. The “actor” was Bowie himself, whose “pet conceit”, in the words of NME critics Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray, was “to think of himself as an actor”. George Underwood was also involved in the creative process of the album cover design.

 
 

The opening track, Changes, focused on the compulsive nature of artistic reinvention (“Strange fascination, fascinating me/Changes are taking the pace I’m going through”) and distancing oneself from the rock mainstream (“Look out, you rock ‘n’ rollers”). However, the composer also took time to pay tribute to his influences with the tracks Song for Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground inspired Queen Bitch.

Following the hard rock of Bowie’s previous album The Man Who Sold the World, Hunky Dory saw the partial return of the fey pop singer of Space Oddity, with light fare such as Kooks (dedicated to his young son, known to the world as Zowie Bowie but legally named Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones) and the cover “Fill Your Heart” sitting alongside heavier material like the occult-tinged Quicksand and the semi-autobiographical The Bewlay Brothers. Between the two extremes was Oh! You Pretty Things, whose pop tune hid lyrics, inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche, predicting the imminent replacement of modern man by “the Homo Superior”, and which has been cited as a direct precursor to Starman from Bowie’s next album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

They Call Them the Diamond Dogs

Diamond Dogs Session (contact sheet), Terry O’Neill, 1974

 
 

Taken as a publicity shoot for the LP Diamond Dogs. As Terry started to shoot with the dog sitting quietly besides Bowie, it suddenly got over excited and reared six feet into the air barking madly. This terrified the life out of everyone in the studio, except Bowie who didn’t even flinch.

 
 

This portrait of David Bowie was part of a studio session in Los Angeles to promote the Diamond Dogs album. Bowie picked up the scissors absent-mindedly and O’Neill decided to keep them in the shoot to symbolize the cutting edge nature of Bowie’s music.

 
 

Diamond Dogs is a concept album by David Bowie, originally released in 1974 on RCA Records, his eighth album. Thematically, it was a marriage of the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell and Bowie’s own glam-tinged vision of a post-apocalyptic world. Bowie had wanted to make a theatrical production of Orwell’s book and began writing material after completing sessions for his 1973 album Pin Ups, but the author’s estate denied the rights. The songs wound up on the second half of Diamond Dogs instead where, as the titles indicated, the Nineteen Eighty-Four theme was prominent.

 
 

The cover art features Bowie as a striking half-man, half-dog grotesque painted by Belgian artist Guy Peellaert. It was controversial as the full painting clearly showed the hybrid’s genitalia. Very few copies of this original cover made their way into circulation at the time of the album’s release. According to the record-collector publication Goldmine price guides, these albums have been among the most expensive record collectibles of all time, as high as thousands of US dollars for a single copy. The genitalia were quickly airbrushed out for the 1974 LP’s gatefold sleeve, although the original artwork (and another rejected cover featuring Bowie in a sombrero cordobés holding onto a ravenous dog, an image captured by Terry O’Neill) was included in subsequent Rykodisc/EMI re-issues.

 
 

Though the album was recorded and released after the ‘retirement’ of Ziggy Stardust in mid-1973, and featured its own lead character in Halloween Jack (“a real cool cat” who lives in the decaying “Hunger City”), Ziggy was seen to be still very much alive in Diamond Dogs, as evident from Bowie’s haircut on the cover and the glam-trash style of the first single Rebel Rebel. As was the case with some songs on Aladdin Sane, the influence of The Rolling Stones was also evident, particularly in the chugging title track. Elsewhere, however, Bowie had moved on from his earlier work with the epic song suite, Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (Reprise), whilst Rock ‘n’ Roll With Me and the Shaft-inspired wah-wah guitar style of 1984 provided a foretaste of Bowie’s next, ‘plastic soul’, phase. The original vinyl album ended with the juddering refrain (actually, a tape loop) Bruh/bruh/bruh/bruh/bruh, the first syllable of “(Big) Brother”, repeated incessantly. The track Sweet Thing was Bowie’s first try at William S. Burroughs‘ cut-up style of writing, which Bowie would continue to use for the next 25 years. Although Diamond Dogs was the first Bowie album since 1969 to not feature any of the Spiders from Mars, the backing band made famous by Ziggy Stardust, many of the arrangements were already worked out and played on tour with Mick Ronson prior to the studio recordings, including 1984 and Rebel Rebel.

Different of Himself

“Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with diverse kind; thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed; neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woolen come upon thee.”

LEV 19:19

 
 

There are three laws Yahweh gave Moses, rejecting unions and mixes practiced by pagan peoples and held by the Jews as aberrations. The first forbids creation of monstrous animals; the second is metaphorically taken to be the banishment of bisexuals. They carry a notion of impurity pointing to the spiritual confusion of the gentiles. Christianity, in turn, interpreted them as laws against wickedness.

These ancient prohibitions are engraved in some of our subconscious, and are the reasons for some of our atavistic fears expressed in “antinatural” visions of monsters and prodigies. These, at the same time, are images of temptation, like the hermaphrodite, the sphinx, the ram with a man’s torso, the foetus begot by Frankenstein, today’s eugenic beings and clones, creatures of undefined sex, marked beings.

Capricorn it is merely a zodiac sign that combines in its dual image the pull to the mountain (the goat) and the abyss (the fish). But read between the lines of our atavistic fear which the ancient prohibition fosters in us, this sign could also be a mating of two beast of different species, separated by a line: the ram and the fish, in other words… Satan and Christ.

The Shaman’s Collection defies bisexuality or hemaphrodytism by attaining an open, almost graceful, almost levitating, almost superhuman asexuality, albeit carnally disquieting and vile. In sealing the male/female partition, the shaman transcends the duality that preys on common man, and sheds it as he would a corpse’s shroud.

Medusa, on the other hand, shows the frightening evil version of the androgyne as a bald (masculine) and shaved (obscene) black-mass priestess sporting a fancy shawl at her bosom as if in contempt of the pious mantilla. A sliding drop of semen stains the picture, reminding us –more to our terror, we are not quite sure in what way– of that Levitical prohibition: “Thou shalt not wear a garment mingled of linen and woolen”. We find ourselves facing the old supernatural horror that undoubtedly divides us into two: attraction and repulsion which makes us different from ourselves.

The bipartition of the picture we mentioned in the dividing line of Capricorn is also the axis of The Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dogson’s Fantasies, in which Arturo Rivera alludes to Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll’s passion for photographing little girls. The child figure, now spurious and morbid, discovers her nakedness. She wrenches away the ample piece of clean cloth to reveal on her skin the line of an excrescence. Here, I should like to mention a “magic” experience that appears over and over in Arturo Rivera’s painting: significant coincidence. I asked the painter whether the bat drawn in the upper part of this painting referred to Lewis Carroll’s photographic studio, where, among an ample collection of toys and dolls for little girl’s comfort, was a wing-flapping, flying bat the writer himself had made. No, said Arturo Rivera; he knew nothing about that bat. I record this as one of many coincidences that abound in this artist and his work. I have noticed a whole string of them, one after the other. They apparently are not motives at the same time necessary, and they bring me to a very enigmatic aspect of his painting: nature and the distribution of objects in his pictures.

Updating a myth rather than portraying symbols, the appearance of a wide range of figures like geometric bodies, plants, dissected animals, organs, etc. could hardly be considered a sign of a purely compositive or simply polysemic reasoning or ratio: These figure are synchronized. As in the bones that a soothsayer throws on the ground, or a flight of birds at the moment a question is asked, or the interpretation of a sacrificed animal’s entrails, or the three coins disbursed with a consultation of I Ching, the essence is in the coincidence, not in cause. Reading and interpreting Arturo Rivera’s pictures cannot, then, be based on artist’s intentions so much as on the speculation the paintings inspire. As if before an oracle, one is looking at a conveyance of truth rather than a strict revelation of truth.

Three pictures bear me out on this: The Island of the Dead, an extraordinary conveyance of what Arturo Rivera saw in Arnold Böcklin‘s homonymous work, a vision. In North, bipartition again mates animals of different species, not to produce a monster but to depict a re-orientation, expressed here by the archetypical change of skin, and the image of mature man overcoming death and ascending to a higher plane of existence. Legatee, conveys androgyny offering milk from the breast. Arturo Rivera’s paintings revive one of art’s ancient functions: making the viewer experience something that surpasses him in space and time, keeping the myth alive.

Text by Jaime Moreno Villareal

 
 

Fall, 1997

Gesso colors on canvas

 
 

The Island of the Dead (Homage to Böcklin), 1997

Oil on paper/linen

 
 

North, 1997

Oil on wood

 
 

Legatee, 1996

Water-colored pencil and water color on paper

 
 

Capricorn, 1996

Sanguine on paper

 
 

Saturn, 1997

Water color and oil on linen

 
 

The Empty Room, 1997

Gesso colors on paper

 
 

July 17, 1975, 1 p.m. : On the Docks of New York, 1996

Cold encaustic on canvas

 
 

Medusa, 1996

Oil on canvas/ wood

 
 

The Temptations of Saint Anthony, 1997

Egg tempera and oil with metal inlay on paper/wood

 
 

Epilogue, 1997

Gesso colors and oil on canvas

 
 

The Shaman’s Collection, 1997

Oil on wood

 
 

Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dogson’s Fantasies, 1997

Oil on canvas

 
 

Arturo Rivera (Mexico City, 1945). Assiduous visitor as a child to the Chopo Natural History Museum, from an early age he coupled his taste for drawing with a passion for dissecting animals and studying bones. He studied painting at the Mexican National School of Plastic Arts, the San Carlos Academy (1963-68), and serigraphy and photoserigraphy at the City Lit Art School of London (1973-74).

Rivera traveled through South America and the Galapagos Islands. He lived four years in New York (1976-79), where he exhibited in the Francis Gallery and the Jack Gallery in Soho, as well as in the Walton Gallery in Chicago. In 1979 he met the Surrealist painter Max Zimmermann who invited him to be his assistant for the courses he was giving in the Kunstakademie of Munich. There he increased his knowledge on traditional painting techniques and how to handle them. During his stay in this city (1980-81), he exhibited in the Haus der Kunst. Rivera returned to Mexico in 1981 at the invitation of Fernando Gamboa to exhibit in the Museum of Modern Art (1982). Since then he has had a number of one-man exhibitions in Mexico and cities abroad.