Here at ArtsWatch we don’t have much to add to the outpourings of sorrow and reminiscence that have come with the news of David Bowie’s death from cancer, except to say that 69 years seems too few, and we, too, wish he had had more time to spend on this planet Earth. Bowie was a showman of great talent, obviously, and he had that rare ability of speaking seemingly personally to people who had never met him. His admirers felt close to him, in the way one feels close to a true friend: he seemed to reveal himself deeply, even as he hid behind his masks.
He was important, partly, because he appeared to speak so directly to what we feel about contemporary life – that it is a restless prowl, a constant reinvention, a swiftly moving shedding of skins and reemergence in new costumes with new rules but somehow, still, with some form of continuity: still David Bowie after all these years. In this sense he was like Picasso, eternally searching, changing, mastering one style and moving on to the next, unbalancing and enthralling people with the message that change itself is at the crux of art. It’s the same message that the business world sends, in a different set of clothes and with a perhaps less palatable spin: creative destruction makes the world go ’round. Except that Bowie, and Picasso, didn’t destroy, necessarily; they were serial creators, moving through sometimes deep and painful places to reappear, confidently, someplace new.
Bowie’s androgyny, too, tapped deeply into his culture’s shifting views on what gender and identity mean: he was a living gesture of complexity, impermanence, and acceptance in a world struggling to move beyond a binary point of view. And so, to this man who fell to Earth, this being we never knew but adopted as our own: on to Stardust. Back to the sky. One more transition, and who knows what’s to come?
A few things to consider in the coming week:
- and from this distance one might never imagine that it is alive. The Art Gym at Marylhurst University opens a survey today of Northwest abstractionists, including Pat Boas, Calvin Ross Carl, Michael Lazarus, Amanda Wojick, Grant Hottle, Jack Featherly, Amy Bernstein, Robert Hardgrave, and Michelle Ross. Through March 5. (Boas also has a continuing show at Elizabeth Leach through Jan. 30.)
- Broken Promises. This new play, written by Milagro’s former artistic director Olga Sanchez, opens Thursday at Milagro for a two-week run before going on tour. It’s based on stories of teenage sex trafficking in Portland, much of it involving young immigrant women. Through Jan. 23.
- The Yellow Wallpaper. Sue Mach’s stage adaptation of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 19th century short story, a landmark of emerging American feminism, opens Friday at CoHo. Grace Carter stars as Charlotte, who is confined for three months to her bedroom by her doctor husband and turns for escape to her own imagination. Through Feb. 6.
- Master guitarist Sharon Isbin. Portland Classic Guitar presents the multi-Grammy winner in a solo recital featuring works by Granados, Albeniz, Barrios, Tan Dun, Bruce MacCombie, and more. First Congregational Church, Friday.
- Pianist Nareh Arghamanyan. Portland Piano International brings the acclaimed young Armenian star for a pair of recitals at Lincoln Performance Hall, each with its own program. Saturday and Sunday.
- The Power of Music: Davita’s Harp. Jack Falk, Cantor Ida Rae Cahana, Courtney Von Drehle, and others play a concert of music that might have surrounded the characters in Chaim Potok’s novel Davita’s Harp, which is the core of Jewish Theatre Collaborative’s season. Milagro Theatre, Monday-Tuesday, Jan. 18-19.
Hurray for Bollywood. “Imagining that you understand Indian cinema having seen nothing but the Apu trilogy and Monsoon Wedding is like thinking every American film was directed by either Vincente Minnelli or John Cassavetes,” Marc Mohan writes in explaining the significance of the Northwest Film Center’s deeper delve into “the world’s most prolific national film industry.”
Grey Gold: Myrrh’s myth. Our reviewer Maria Choban comes down squarely in favor of Portland musician Myrrh Larsen’s new rock opera: “Would I pay $10 or $11 for this show? Hell Yes!!” The David Bowie influence, she notes, “is evident in Larsen’s mascara and hair.”
Estelí Gomez and Roomful of Teeth. The new-music stars are coming to Oregon for shows and workshops in Eugene and Portland, and ArtsWatch’s Gary Ferrington interviews Gomez about what we can expect.
Yads, Torahs, history’s pointing hand. I look at three shows at the Oregon Jewish Museum – a historical collection of yads, or Torah pointers; a photographic record of a group of Torah scrolls ruined in the course of war; a series of 1940s woodblock prints celebrating life on the World War II home front – and what they mean in the human cycle of creation, destruction, and reclamation.
About ArtsWatch Weekly
We send a letter like this every Tuesday to a select group of email subscribers, and also post it weekly on the ArtsWatch home page. In ArtsWatch Weekly, we take a look at stories we’ve covered in the previous week, give early warning of events coming up, and sometimes head off on little arts rambles we don’t include anywhere else. You can read this report here. Or, you can get it delivered weekly to your email inbox, and get a quick look at all the stories you might have missed (we have links galore) and the events you want to add to your calendar. It’s easy to sign up. Just click here, and leave us your name and e-address.
We end with a couple of requests. First, if you have friends or family members who you think would enjoy our cultural writing online, could you please forward this letter to them? The bigger our circle of friends, the more we can accomplish. Second, if you’re not already a member of ArtsWatch, may we ask you to please take a moment and sign on? What you give (and your donation is tax-deductible) makes it possible for us to continue and expand our reporting and commenting on our shared culture in Oregon. Thanks, and welcome!