“The Legend of Leigh Bowery”
One of a Kind
Leigh Bowery was unknown to me before I watched this short film, He died of AIDS at the age of 33 after having a unique life as a true individual. The movie gives an honest portrait of a very complex person who lived under glitter, high energy and wild, wild costumes. Leigh was born in Australia to devout parents who were active in the Salvation Army. His strange behavior took him from Oz to London—to the gay clubs, to costume design and performance art. His life came to a head with a series of touching and astonishing portraits painted of him, in 1990, by artist Lucie Freud.
Through interviews with his family, friends and one odd widow named Nicola; we get a balanced look at his life. Leigh could walk into a nightclub and make it his own in a matter of moments. He and his costumes were always over the top. Leigh Bowery was a visionary in time and in his craft. He was an unusual person who began to make his mark on the world once he moved to London. His upbringing would let him go no further. He was outer worldly and is described as living art. He wore his own creations and they were bizarre to say the least. His life was nocturnal and he commanded attention. Some say he wore his crazy costumes to shock people and to make them not know whether they should be embarrassed or not or just stare and then run away. He was never ignored and he loved the attention. He was ahead of his time.
Of particular interest are the scenes of the eighties. But even more interesting are his final years when he sat for portraits, He had already become an icon and a darling of the new wave and the avant garde. Whether he was in a gallery showing himself or nude or pretending to be giving birth, he was always outlandish and shocking.
I am so sorry that I missed him. He sounds like quite a character. The film shows us what we all have missed.