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Jennifer Elster turns Bowie into art

I came across this article and accompanying video about an art instillation in New York City by “underground” artist Jennifer Elster. I included a link to the article about the exhibit, so I won’t repeat it, but it features artifacts of and work inspired by Bowie’s album art for the 1995 album, 1. Outside. The centerpiece is a painting (?) of Bowie as Romana A. Stone, one of the characters from the album. If I understand it correctly, the image is painted from a photo taken for the album, that was itself distorted for the image you will see if you look on the actual album.

One of the things I find interesting about this is that in the 50th year of Aladdin Sane, which yielded some of the most iconic imagery of Bowie, this artist zeroed in on a more recent, but far more obscure look. Though Elster has a claim on the look since she helped Bowie create it in the first place, I’m guessing it will seem unsettling to someone imagining a crimson-mullet and lightning bolt makeup. The centerpiece picture might seem jarring and inexplicable to anyone not familiar with why Bowie was dressed that way in the first place. By 1995, Bowie had long since veered away from drag and gender ambiguity, but he returned to those themes with 1. Outside.

That said, Elster worked with Bowie to create his looks for the album. Here’s an interview in which she talks about working with Bowie, and how the character of Ramona was particularly meaningful to her.

1. Outside is one of my favorite albums. But as far as I can tell, this particular exhibit really isn’t about the album. I don’t see anything really explaining the background. So the other thing that’s interesting is that the very image of Bowie has become art in itself. In a way, this exhibit is another example of David Bowie transcending mortal form and becoming part of our culture.

I’m not sure if I’ll have a chance to visit this exhibit in person, but if I do I might revisit what I see with my own eyes.

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