I did a few studies of David Bowie last summer after he passed. This was a continuation of my magazine cover content series, but also meant to be a healing process. I just started drawing in hopes of finding an answer to why I felt compelled to spend time with his memory. This makes more sense to me now than it did then.
For so many, he was the first artist to become a mainstream gender-bending, pan sexual superstar. "David Bowie may have been the world's first transgender ally - before we had words like 'transgender' and 'ally' in our vocabulary." Like other gems of the 80's/90's (George Michael, Boy George, Madonna), Bowie was one of few to represent anyone who cared to be themselves, regardless of the mainstream opinion. He did so not just publicly, but successfully.
At a time when so many are persecuted for being different, I felt like revisiting his spirit was essential to keep me sane. RuPaul talked about his death on his podcast stating: "He represented so much of my philosophy as an outsider, I felt like the boy who felt earth - and he represented that." Michelle Visage continued, stating so eloquently that: "The thing about Bowie is he was, and will always be a work of art because he did not care what anyone thought about him, what anybody thought about his music. He did what he had to do - but it wasn't so far out that people couldn't hone in on it... People got it. And not only did they get it - it motivated people."
Like so many of my generation - I will think of him first as he played Jareth, the Goblin King in the 1986 cult class Labyrinth. It was a collaboration of 3 particularly profound artists: George Lucas, Jim Henson, and David Bowie. Together, they created a world that represented so many things I was feeling as a child. It was like watching an even more fucked version of Alice in Wonderland, and I was drawn to it. I was just as confused then, as I am now about how the good and evil spirits of the adult world worked. This struggle is a constant thread in my own work, and just about any other work that I adore. I am still trying to comprehend how easily people seem to shape shift, morphing from a sweet innocent childhood play pal into an evil creature. Equally how something or someone perceived to be a monster, is often the sweetest softest heart in the world.
Bryony Gordon says it best when she compares Jareth to her own anxiety monster in Mad Girl. David Bowie may have meant many things to many people, but for me - he will always represent the Goblin King of my own head. The beauty of the battle between good and evil within ourselves, and an icon of finding comfort in my own anxiety and depression.