The official Bowie Facebook page gave us a surprise today (or yesterday, if you, like me, are in North America) — at midnight UK time they posted a song title, from the new album, and a date: February 26, 2013 (02.26.13). Another single — let’s hope. Because waiting all the way until March for the entire new record is simply too much to bear.
The steel head sculpture that is the cover art for the presumptive new single is not Bowie’s, but that of artist Egon Schiele, who died in 1918 at the age of 28. I’m sure there are deep, minute connections between Schiele and the work of Bowie — something so specific, that particular sculpture, as the cover art for this particular song, which we have yet to hear, cannot be by accident. But I don’t know the references. I’m less of a historian than a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants Bowie buff.
But the image makes me think of Bowie as the artist — not the musician, but the painter, sculptor, sometime computer-generated graphic designer. Some of Bowie’s art pieces and his past history of exhibitions, mostly in the 1990s, are on his still-live, but no longer updated, official site Bowieart. At one point — perhaps he still is — he was on the editorial board of Modern Painters magazine and an active supporter of up-and-coming artists.
Bowie’s Broadway performance of The Elephant Man (watch part of the performance and audience reaction in Part 1 of a great interview about the play — Part 2, with an extended performance clip, is embedded on the Interviews page) still resonates, more than 30 years later. In this uncomfortable Dick Cavett interview from the mid-1970s Bowie mentions writing a novel, based on the Trans-Siberian Express (himself having taken this train because he was at that time, and was for decades to follow, terrified to fly).
David Jones, who created David Bowie, is clearly a gifted person. It’s not unusual for performers to see their creative indulgences flow out into other art forms; but with Bowie, perhaps unlike other artists, the painting, the acting, the experimentation with mime, doesn’t seem like a side project. It all seems connected somehow, as if every medium feeds into one another, and painting, acting, style, fashion all lay groundwork for the music.
Look Back In Anger was a single off of Lodger in 1979. The video takes its concept from an Oscar Wilde novel. But it is a striking image of Bowie as a painter. Hanging out in a very cozy loft; painting left-handed; and at the very end, hiding under the bed.