Through January 4, MCA hosts the only U.S. stop for the travelling David Bowie Is exhibit. One of the show ‘s aims is to give cultural context to Bowie’s perennial themes, so there is a host of ephemera Bowie might have seen during the 50s and 60s relating to space travel, Buddhism and rock n’ roll.
There are many personal effects in the show, including expressionist paintings made by the artist (such as this amazing portrait of Iggy Pop) and handwritten lyrics. The latter was eye-opening: lyrics I know from glossy recordings beginning humbly as words scrawled on torn-out notebook paper. Bowie seemed suddenly not so far out in space, but rather as a man who might compose at the kitchen table over a cup of tea.
There are numerous costumes on display — those worn on stage, in music videos and in photo shoots. These alone are beautiful works of art by designers such as Kansai Yamamoto and Alexander McQueen. The costumes are worn by life-size mannequins, which reveal how slight Bowie’s frame actually is. I was surprised to see that I am taller than he. I always imagined him towering over me.
David Bowie has been a huge influence on me, especially when I was in my early twenties. His artistic practice of persona-hopping and genre-collecting seemed to reflect my own philosophical restlessness. Over time, I have come to understand the human psyche as containing many, often contradictory selves, and I have learned to integrate them rather than divide them. I don’t know whether Bowie has done the same, but he has certainly been unafraid to explore his selves.
Another venue I highly recommend is LUMA. One of their current exhibits is Crossings and Dwellings: Restored Jesuits, Women Religious, American Experience, 1814 – 2014. The art and artifacts on display tell the history of the work of Jesuits and religious in the Western half of the U.S. The objects include numerous beautiful monstrances, crucifixes and reliquaries. One thing the placards made clear is the grounding power of physical objects for people who have journeyed far from home.
The third floor of LUMA has an exhibit titled Gilded Glory: European Treasures from the Martin D’Arcy, S.J. Collection. This floor features almost exclusively religious artworks, but the variety of styles on display makes the collection feel anything but repetitive. There is everything from Baroque realism to the quirky folk stylings of the Netherlands to the standardized visual language of Russian Orthodox iconography. The exhibit made me appreciate the distinctness of these individual voices. I feel inspired to remain true to my own unique vision of the Dream.
Cue LUMA’s incredible motto: Art illuminating the spirit. Take a walk through these fabulous collections, and you just might leave the place shining….