“BOWIE IN THE BASEMENT,” works for the Thunder-Sky Art Gallery showing, April 29th, 2016

Pardon Me When The Kingdom Comes, (oil pastel on canvas board) ©2016 Alfred EakerPardon Me When The Kingdom Comes, (oil pastel on canvas board) ©2016 Alfred Eaker

“The more horrifying the world becomes, the more art becomes abstract.” (Paul Klee)

The works here represent a pivotal time in my life (1980) when I discovered both the music of David Bowie (Scary Monsters And Super Creeps) and Pierre Boulez (Fold Upon Fold) in 1980. Both were aesthetic channels out of what then was a kind of hell. They both represented the outsider, rising up to so-ciety. Through their approach to art and the status quo, each spoke a cool, brutal language that, at 16, powerfully resonated.

Alfred Eaker easel 1981-2016

Paint easel 1981-2016

Of course, it’s more complex than that and, oddly enough, both died in January 2106-in the pulse of winter. When news of Boulez’ death came, I was literally working on a canvas, from a series of drawings I thought I had lost, but had recently discovered in one of many boxes I was getting round to unpack ( a year after the move). The drawings were first made at concerts I attended of Boulez conducting avant-garde music (including his own) in Chicago. His death was expected. He was 90 and had vanished from the music scene two years before. Only a week prior, I had lamented to my wife that Boulez was fading.

Alfred Eaker paint floor

Paint floor

Far more shocking was news of Bowie’s death a mere three days later and 24 hours before his new album, Black Star arrived in my mailbox. With the deaths of Boulez and Bowie, the last two living artists on my 1980 identification plane exited this mortal plane. Their deaths, like their lives and work, means something and affected me in a way similar to the loss of my first spiritual director: Fr. Hilary Ottensmeyer. That kind of loss is different than when a family member dies. Of course, we do not choose our family of origin and, in my case, family only impacted me in a direction of impassioned revolt. In contrast to that, we choose and compose our identification plane, being drawn to those voices that speak a spiritually familiar language.

Alfred Eaker paint shirt

Paint Shirt

As a painter, I took to heart something Boulez once said at a concert I attended: “We must be cultural omnivores and raid all the art forms to enhance our own medium.”  Thus, my identification plane included musicians (Wagner, Bruckner, Mahler, Debussy, The Second Viennese School, Stravinsky, Varese, Bartok, Nono, Boulez, Billie Holiday, Julie London,  Abbey Lincoln, Miles Davis, Frank Zappa, John Coltrane, The Velvet Underground, Bowie, Talking Heads, Laurie Anderson, John Zorn, and Beck) filmmakers (Bunuel, Dreyer, Tarkovsky, Chaplin, Harry Langdon, Ken Russell, David Lynch, and Guy Maddin), writers (Kafka, Flannery O’ Connor, Antonin Artaud, Samuel Beckett, Hubert Selby JR, Philip Lamantia, and Thomas Merton), as well as painters (El Greco, Gauguin, William Blake, the Blue Riders, Munch, Picasso, Klee, Klimt, Bacon, Gorky, De Kooning, and Howard Finster).

To Be Insulted By These Fascists, It's So Degrading, (oil pastel on canvas board) © Alfred EakerTo Be Insulted By These Fascists, It’s So Degrading, (oil pastel on canvas board) © Alfred Eaker 

A few weeks after David Bowie died, Bill Ross (who I went to art school with) invited me to participate in the “Bowie In The Basement,” showing at Thunder-Sky Gallery (owned by Bill and Keith Banner) on April 29th.  Before starting the work at hand, I recalled my initial discover of Bowie when I had purchased his Scary Monster album from Karma Records. More than anything it was his appearance, as a Picasso-like Pierrot, which drew me to the album and, upon listening to it, I discovered a spiritually irreverent sibling.

They Came Down Hard On The Faggots, They Came Down Hard On The Sreets, (oil pastel on canvas board) ©2016 Alfred EakerThey Came Down Hard On The Faggots, They Came Down Hard On The Streets, (oil pastel on canvas board) ©2016 Alfred Eaker

In tapping back into that day of carefully placing the Bowie LP on turntable and listening to it repeatedly, it seemed, paradoxically like an ancient, long ago world of a teenager I no longer wholly identify with. Yet, it seemed also like a mere couple of years ago. It’s almost jolting to reflect on how much two artists, working in an entirely different medium than my own, impacted my life.

Thrown Into The Wagon, blinfolded, chains, and they stomped on us. Took Away Our Clothes And Things, Pumped Us Full Of Strange Drugs, (oil pastel on canvas board) ©2106 Alfred EakerThrown Into The Wagon, blinfolded, chained, and they stomped on us. Took Away Our Clothes And Things, Pumped Us Full Of Strange Drugs, (oil pastel on canvas board) ©2106 Alfred Eaker

I never was able to see Bowie in concert, but I followed him regularly, even through those artistically faultering periods. Boulez I saw in person more than any other artist. In the drawings here, I catapulted my memory into that purely emotional state, sans representation, of 1980 discovery.

I Am Barred From The Event (oil pastel on canvas board). ©2016Alfred EakerI Am Barred From The Event (oil pastel on canvas board). ©2016Alfred Eaker

Alfred Eaker retired palette3

Retired Palette (gave up the ghost to paper plates)

Alfred Eaker retired palette4

Retired Palette (gave up the ghost to paper plates)

Alfred Eaker retired palette5

Retired Palette (gave up the ghost to paper plates)

Alfred Eaker retired palette6

Retired Palette (gave up the ghost to paper plates)

Alfred Eaker retired palette2

Retired Palette (gave up the ghost to paper plates)

Alfred Eaker retired palette

Retired Palette (gave up the ghost to paper plates)

Alfred Eaker retired palette16

Retired Palette (gave up the ghost to paper plates)

Alfred Eaker retired palette15

Retired Palette (gave up the ghost to paper plates)

Alfred Eaker retired palette14

Retired Palette (gave up the ghost to paper plates)

Alfred Eaker retired palette13

Retired Palette (gave up the ghost to paper plates)

Alfred Eaker retired palette12

Retired Palette (gave up the ghost to paper plates)

Alfred Eaker retired palette11

Retired Palette (gave up the ghost to paper plates)

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About Alfred Eaker

Alfred Eaker is fine arts painter, filmmaker, and has a masters degree in theology. He currently lives in Portland, oregon with his wife: Aja Rossman-Gray.
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