Keith Mayerson


Aladdin Sane


I'm a huge Bowie fan, and when he died I was devastated, and mourned his loss by making a series of my favorite album covers from some of his best records and moments. Aladdin Sane is one his best "characters", and for the show Heroes & Villain, I feel he created his own superhero with Aladdin Sane (and he was also for much of his adult life a great American and New Yorker!). The 1973 cover was from a famous photoshoot by Brian Duffy, who came up with the idea of the lightning bolt from a rice cooker logo that was in the studio kitchen, and it was makeup artist Pierre Laroche who made it manifest. My job in an era post-Warhol, and maybe even post-Richter, is to paint through the photo and make it come alive, and hope that I was able to do this with this image, painted to be the scale of a record cover. As I painted, I listened to the entire Bowie oeuvre in the hopes to really embellish his character and bring him to life, like a Frankenstein monster—it was amazing to me that you can see his pupils through the glare of the lights and his makeup, almost like a spirit channeled through the vehicle of his flesh. As a gay man, I really admire and want to bring to homage his opening up, via this and his other characters, music, and person gender and identity politics, for all "queer" people, despite one's orientation, and the cover of Aladdin Sane does this for me as an image perhaps the most, as he truly is beyond (especially for that time) conventions of patriarchal order. The weird allure of the drip on his collarbone, wonderfully airbrushed and hopefully translated well here, seems like simultaneously a teardrop, "cumdrop", or a strange amalgamation of both forming a would be gun/phallus like form, which further gives the character symbolic power, the yellow on his armpits also giving a musky stench to the proceedings. Like Bowie, I too am influenced by Burroughs, who wrote The Wild Boys and Naked Lunch and more, where his queer characters have super powerful agency that transcends the worlds that try to subjugate them, and Bowie, in his music and persona had the grace but also power and gravitas that has superseded the ages—his spirit and music will live on through eternity and continue to productively influence the world.