All Sunday morning, I was going through my journals. I was on a mission.
I have been keeping a journal since the mid 1980s. Yet, I was looking for something very specific from my years in New York when I was attending art school to study Painting at Parsons School of Design in 1990-91.
I was reading the entries during these years with great reflection and appreciation of how my younger self navigated the world. In some cases, I was recounting daily activities: who I talked to (my mom, my dad, my sister and brother, friends from Seattle), famous people I saw (like Mikhail Baryshnikov who walked right by me near Union Square--we looked at each other...swoon.)
My journals include sketches, notes on homework assignments, fliers and postcards about upcoming events, impressions of artwork I saw while spending hours in museums large (The Met and MOMA) and small (Cooper Hewitt, the Pierpont Morgan Library--after J.P.--now called "The Morgan Library and Museum.") In many entries, I am delving into deeper questions. There are some really insightful and deep writings in there!
26 September 1990: "Today we had a crit (critique) in painting. Normally at home, I have the freedom and flexibility to explore in many mediums-with a lot of range. I am glad that in the studio, with the fundamentals, where I am being pushed and stretched. I feel elastic like a rubber band. I know I am not stretching enough though. I really need to let go and break open. "
October 1990: "Think about a painting that speaks to you--the painting has an aura-a presence all its own. Painting has to do with the soul. It is spiritual."
20 November 1990: "Don't think about the work. Allow it to exist within its own life. I always felt that work exists on its own strengths and cannot be given a meaning. The meaning develops from within. Challenge your own boundaries and awareness. Break into organic forms much like the 50 drawings exercise. Things must have their living element. Very important. People respond to that element. Approach your work with the importance of "being" as well as maintain a free and loose child-like spirit. Very much an issue of duality. The element of spontaneity is fresh in the work and free of convention."
December 1990. Discussion in drawing: "Movement doesn't have to represent the shape. The idea is the action, the lines--are they static, do they indicate action? There are ways to suggest mood, movement, using the quality of the line. Is the line thin, thick, dense, light, solid? All of these things go into consideration of the drawing and give it life."
28 October 1990. In reference to the diversity of people in New York City: "It is pretty wild how many shapes and sizes man comes in. Always amazes me the more I see people who are very different from me, the more I am reminded that there isn't much that makes us different. And the more I see people like me, say white middle class or where I think I identify, the less I am interested or impressed. It gets to the point where all I can think about is what I do and that all I can do is my best. And the best I can do is be in a life that represents my beliefs, goals, and ideals."
When I lived in New York City, I spent many many hours on the weekends walking from Greenwich Village to Central Park. I also took the subway trains on occasion, but walking is my thing. Walking you see more...you get a feel for the urban landscape, the people, and the amazing architecture of the city. So much history! More often or not, while walking you will see the sites and an occasional celebrity or two.
One of those celebrities was David Bowie!
I recall the event with great clarity even now, 26 years later.
I was on one of my long walks to the Met. It was in November 1990, a Sunday afternoon I think. I was on Madison Avenue in about the East 70's. It was a grey overcast afternoon. As I was walking, I saw two people walking towards me. It was just the three of us on that gigantic block. (Blocks in New York as you get into the higher numbers can be very, very long.) Hardly any traffic was about. As I drew closer, I could tell these people were likely famous...there was a way they carried themselves and the elegant way they dressed that was very interesting to me. I was wearing jeans, a pullover, and a backpack. Art student gear. As I got closer, I was getting nervous because I recognized one of the people was David Bowie. Holy Cow! What the heck was I going to do?
I had to keep walking. But I was really, really, nervous. I wanted to look at him. And I also wanted to be discrete and give him his privacy. And there was no way I could turn around and go the other way. I had to keep walking. As we approached each other closer, I noticed that his companion was Iman! (I now know they met a few weeks prior on a blind date at a party in Los Angeles--It was love at first sight for Bowie.) They strolled in their own private world, quietly, without chatting.
I did look at him. He looked at me for about half a second. He was really clear about maintaining his privacy. I got that and I was totally going to respect him for that and not make a fool of myself by acting like an overzealous fan saying something like "You're David Bowie! OMG!" But I was for sure feeling that way on the inside!
As they passed, I was stoked with excitement. I turned to watch them continue on their journey. I felt on cloud nine for the rest of the day. I will never forget that experience. It was a thrill to me.
Fast forward to Sunday, January 17, 2016.
I knew I had to have written this experience in my journal. All morning long, I looked in all my journals. And looked again. I came up empty. I was thinking, "Dang, if Facebook was around back then, I would have for sure posted that!" and could just go back in my timeline. Well, I knew I saw Bowie and I would just have to be satisfied with my memories.
Later Sunday evening, as I sat down to write this blog, I thought, I will share some of the interesting insights from my journal. Then, as I was reading through one of my journals, I found it! Eureka! The excitement of finding that entry was thrilling, just as the experience itself had been 26 years prior. Time travel is real when emotions are stirred.
The entry was remarkably short for such a profound impression I had of the experience. Only a few sentences.
"I saw David Bowie on my way to the Met. Walking with a gal on Madison. Cool. I like Bowie."
During the past week, I have seen this posted a lot on Facebook: "The world is 4 billion years old and you somehow managed to exist at the same time as David Bowie."
The January 16, 2016 New York Times published an article , "David Bowie: Invisible New Yorker." For a few moments in time, he was visible for me.
I will always cherish the few seconds that I got to share in my all-so-brief encounter with David Bowie--Ziggy Stardust, Starman, The Thin White Duke, chameleon, great innovative and influential artist throughout his entire life--in the flesh, as an everyday citizen on planet Earth.
Mary Lamery is a lifelong resident and native of the Pacific Northwest. Lamery paints regional landscape in a manner that leans towards 19th century French Impressionism.
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Five words that describe who I am today: adventurer, risk taker, nostalgic, inquisitive, decisive.