David Bowie Exhibit, December 2014

One of the first things I knew I had to do when I moved back to Chicago was go to the David Bowie exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. It struck me that I had never actually been to the MCA, despite growing up in the Chicago area for 18 years, and living in the suburbs again for another 1.5 years. Sometimes it’s true that a tourist will get more out of the city than a local. A mere two weeks after moving, my love for David Bowie would not let me miss the chance to see his exhibit. I ended up connecting with Steph, my sister’s best friend as well as mine, who had visited me when I was in Spain. Luckily her husband and baby Cecilia were rock stars and almost as pumped as we were to go. We went around December 20th, so I even went a little early to do some Christmas shopping at the museum. This was incredibly dangerous, as I found gifts for myself, and once Steph arrived, she too fell for the perilous, three floor gift store.

Among purchased items:

Postcard of Bowie’s handwritten Ziggy Stardust lyrics

Salvador Dali Tarot (for me, normally 50 bucks online and at the Isis bookstore but for some reason 30 dollars here)

Set of 100 vintage comic postcards- for brother in law

Zipper bracelet (oh another gift for me?)

Modern bead bracelet for sister

2 Bowie guitar picks (so that Sophie and me could be twins, obviously)

*Steph found silver heart spoons and a cute rainbow zipper bag

And we hadn’t even gone to the exhibit yet. I had unfortunately bought my ticket after them since I was waiting in the store, and ended up getting the slot after them. The exhibit was so popular we had to wait two hours. Matt, Steph’s husband, was kind enough to swap tickets with me. Luckily Steph is very convincing and said we were all together, so we got to go in at the same time. Unfortunately, Cecilia had a diaper accident as soon as we got in, so Matt had to change her. It ended up taking so long that we couldn’t wait any more and started the exhibit before Matt joined us.


We were first greeted by the amazing outfit above. I knew the exhibit would be worth the 25 dollars, since Trip Advisor had given the exhibit a 4.8/5 stars, all the reviews looked positive and recommended it, and I was promised David Bowie body suits, which I admit were my favorite. But you really don’t know what it’s like until you’re there. I felt amazed listening to interview snippets while I walked about the room. It was so inspiring to hear about his creative process while becoming a musician–reading novels, becoming influenced by jazz, soaking in all his inspirations and fusing them into something new. Seeing his handwritten lyrics, hearing his struggles with life and mental illness and making something out of that. Being weird and unique and making it work for him, when everyone else seemed to want to be the Beatles or Elvis. Another of my favorites was when he described his “cut-up” technique where he cut up and mixed and matched words and phrases to make his lyrics. I could just picture him doing that with “China Girl”:

I stumble into town, just like a sacred cow

visions of swatsikas in my head

One of my favorite lyrics of all time. I felt the muse of his handwritten lyrics beaming through the glass pane and infiltrating my soul and being with its light. I was amazed by all the music videos, the suits, and the carefully depicted themes such as Bowie’s androgynous phase, Bowie’s thumbnails for a dystopian film “Diamond Dogs” similar to 1984, never brought to life. The gold outfit with a hand on its crotch (even more scandalous without it). All this and more made me feel more and more inspired to create, to be a writer. Especially when Bowie said if he hadn’t been a musician, he might have been a novelist. BAM. But I didn’t really have that thrilling fan girl moment until I saw the suit from the music video Ashes to Ashes. I almost had a heart attack and panicked with joy. OH MY GOD I’M IN A DAVID BOWIE EXHIBIT AND THIS IS THE FREAKING SUIT HE WORE IN ASHES TO ASHES ALL THIS STUFF IS HIS I AM ALMOST TOUCHING HIM BUT AHHHH!!! I definitely wanted to reach out and grab the suit. It took all of my composure not too. I was pleased to realize that I had not yet become desensitized by entertainment and the media by amazing things, that I was still capable of being blown away and flipping out like a fan girl. Heart Bowie. Heart everything you do. You are amazing.

The only thing I did not like, and would have liked to know ahead of time, was that they blocked off sections so you couldn’t go back to them. I think I actually missed a section because I thought I still had time before the museum closed, but they had blocked it off. Either way, I am thrilled to say I saw his Labyrinth outfit, movie snippets, and of course the final room with all the different styles of outfits including the colorful jazz and German era phase, the Ziggy suits all lit up at different times like TV surveillance screens all stacked up among each other. I can happily say this was the beginning of my reawakening, my desire to create, and move forward even after Nanowrimo.


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