Leigh Bowery. Do you know the name? Do you know your Drag Herstory? If so, here’s a video below that you’ll want to see. If not, here’s a little primer first.
Leigh Bowery was a London-based performance artist, club promoter, and fashion designer. He was became a model and muse to the late painter, Lucien Freud. He was born 26 March 1961 in Sunshine, Australia, a suburb of Melbourne.
As a kid down under in Australia, he began to feel that he didn’t fit it and after reading British fashion magazines about the New romantic scene, he moved to London, where he worked did some commercials for Pepe jeans, and created promos for musical artists, including one for David Bowie’s Ashes To Ashes video.
He soon became an unmistakeable figure in both the underground clubs of London and New York, as well as in art and fashion. He designed costumes for the Michael Clark Dance Company.
As a performance artist he loved shocking audiences. He first appeared at the Anthony D’Offay Gallery in London in 1988. In a signature performance, he would appear on stage in outlandish drag or other costume, looking very huge. He would sing and dance about. Then suddenly, much to the audience’s surprise, he would drop onto his back and simulate giving birth to a petite and naked young woman, who was his friend and assistant (and later his wife) Nicola Bateman.
In an interview conducted by Mark Ronson for Interview Magazine Boy George said that Bowery would sometimes speak with a posh English accent, and one didn’t always know if he was sincere or mocking. He seemed to be “in character” at all times. He was a ringleader of misbehavior, and with his club, Taboo, he created a place where there were no rules.
Bowery once said,
“Flesh is my most favorite fabric.”
Although he always described himself as gay, Bowery married his long-time companion Nicola Bateman on May 13, 1994 in London. He died 7 months later on New Year’s Eve, 1994, from an AIDS-related illness.
Here he is in all his glory in a dazzling debut on BBC One‘s The Clothes Show in 1988, taking viewers inside Harrods for a spot of tea and a wee bit of shopping. Naturally it was all about his multiple costumes — sequined bodysuits with his signature “fabric face” — and his cuckoo narration.
Our own James St. James loves him some Leigh and has the above image as his shower curtain.