Monday, November 7, 2016

Someone Else, Someone Good

[late-nite update: the title of this post is a Lou Reed reference but I have since deleted the Lou Reed content, may the title live on]

Starting on Thursday, November 10, Sotheby's is auctioning off David Bowie's private art collection, almost 400 pieces in all, with an estimated value of $13 million. Bowie's art collection is famously far-ranging - from Tintoretto to Jean-Michel Basquiat and Bowie's spin-painting with Damien Hirst (though there's no sign at Sotheby's of the rumored "small Rubens" he's mentioned in interviews) - and Bowie himself was an avid painter and critic (he served on the editorial board of Modern Painters for many years; his paintings are gestural portraits in the spirit of Bacon et al). From his departure from public life following a heart attack in 2004 until his unexpected reappearance with The Next Day in 2013, most media accounts of his life depicted Bowie settling comfortably into old age and collecting artwork (it was one of these accounts that directly inspired the first stories in SATURN).

It's fascinating to look through the collection (which as far as I know has never been catalogued for the public, only speculated at piecemeal) and trace certain pieces to their particular eras of fascination in Bowie's ouevre, to find their echoes in albums or costumes.

One example: take the series of minotaur prints by Michael Ayrton (undated); a collection of bronze African heads and masks (here's one) acquired from a South African gallery in 1995; the aforementioned Hirst spin painting from 1995; an orgiastic Jacob Epstein illustration for Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal (acquired by Bowie in 1994); Odd Nerdrum's Dawn; Stephen Finer's Head of a Woman: blend them all together, and you effectively have 1995's 1. Outside, a sprawling, atmospheric concept album about mutilation and murder in the name of art, with an artist/murderer called "the Minotaur" at its center, whose cover was a self-portrait by Bowie. Watch the video for "The Hearts Filthy Lesson" and you'll see what I mean.


I just finished Trinie Dalton's first story collection, Wide Eyed (Akashic, 2005). It's a wonderful book of charming, bizarre stories full of specific knowledge. In essence it's built from the same kind of thematic association as Bowie's art collection (and his music): deep knowledge of salamander anatomy in conversation with Marc Bolan's "Salamanda Palaganda" to service a larger point about wanting to feel protected and small (in "A Giant Loves You"); fixation with A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween and an attraction to serial killers/predatory men as a desire to find a moment of perfect innocence ("Chrysalis"); bloodied tiles as the ultimate abhorrent image ("Tiles").


Luna Luna recently reprinted one of my early stories from Masterworks (a series about reenacting famous works of art), this one on Goya's Witches' Flight, in their Halloween issue. It's one of my favorite stories from the series - if you like that one, you can read the rest here. There will be two final stories in the series, which will be published in Paper Darts in good time.

I also have a story coming up in Joyland later this month that I'm really excited about. Otherwise, I am still trying to get this novel published/finish the next one.