Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Leigh Bowery 50th Birthday

Can you believe it the amazing and influential Leigh Bowery would have been 50 this year, to celebrate his life and work the ICA are holding a one day event on the 1st April, kicking off with a talk at 1.30pm from bezzie mate Sue Tilley who relaunches her book about their friendship 'The Life And Times Of An Icon'

Leigh bowery
I first met Leigh in the early 80's... Leigh Bowery experimented with notions of body distortion. AIDS was becoming an epidemic, Bowery represented this by painting yellow huge yellow circles on his face. His weekly club Taboo was a melting pot of ideas showcasing Leigh's increasingly wild attire and social commentary on sexuality, body adornment and humorous but valid views on style. Bowery arrived in London from Australia in the early 80's and started developing a small collection, 'Pakis In Outer Space' which set him on a path that in the future saw him designing costumes for dancer Michael Clark. Hilton Als explains,  *'Bowery's great stroke a year into his London stay was to turn the uniform of the dandy on it's head, he combined Mannerism with Modernism. He parodied excess'. His vision, which at the time was regarded as quite spectacular was infact Bowery's attempt at wearable fashion with a twist. Futuristic maybe but Bowery's influence can be felt in many of the advant designers of today. Leigh himself said, +'The looks were a total package. I can't think of one thing without the other. When I'm working on a look, everything is taken into consideration'. Bowery paraded his latest looks at the clubs he frequented, he used social occasions to confront and have fun both with his own persona and the reaction he caused around him. Equally Bowery's day look was quite confronting on a subversive level, he got into wigs which he customized resulting in toupees shawn so you could see the webbing amid tufts of nylon hair. Other times the look could be quite coiffured. He took to wearing trainers inside clog type shoes, all in all he looked quite eccentric, he had pierced cheeks and with natural make up his dimpled piercing's gave him a  perverted air. Still he insisted that he could pass for 'normal'. Leigh Bowery eventually poured his creative energy into various unique stage costumes for his own performances which included giving birth and a live enima show, he gave up the idea of designing collections as such, but created further outfits for Michael Clark eventually becoming part of his dance company with cameo roles. His art status increased with a week long installation piece at the Anthony D'Offay Gallery in 1988, his friend Sue Tilley explains the scenario, $'There was a simple set, just Leigh and a chaise-longue. In the gallery he had the sound of traffic playing and each day a different smell was wafted around, one day banana the next marshmallows. Every day Leigh wore another one of his looks. He would lie on the chaise-longue and then maybe prowl around or do some high kicks or keep a pose for ten minutes depending on waht sort of mood he was in.' Leigh later became a model for artist Lucien Freud and formed his band Minty, he died in 1994. 


  1. Hello love, great post. I'm confused about the dates I must check Facebook. Sue's invited me to a couple of things. There's a talk in the evening on 12 May at the ICA I was going to ask you if you wanted me to pick you up. Call you tomorrow as I'm around in the afternoon. Much love, C xx

  2. indeed... and it is so fantastic to be able to share...
    by the wonderful Sue Tilley