Australia

A Rainy Afternoon Viewing Collins, Bowery, and Freud


The weather has turned –

the sky is cloudy, there is a hint of rain, and the temperature has fallen to 23°. Greg comments that it feels like fall, and I remind him that it feels more like summer in Toronto.

When we arrived in the apartment, we were both concerned that I would have trouble sleeping in all the brightness. In fact, I am sleeping well, and it is Greg who is not sleeping. He wakes this morning complaining of exhaustion.

Viewing Collins, Bowery, and Freud

We agree that given the weather, today is a perfect museum day after we get through our chores – gym for me, internet café for Greg. When we meet back at the apartment just before noon, Greg is still not feeling great, and when I come out of the shower, he is sound asleep. I leave him to sleep, and head down to the Rocks, to the Museum of Contemporary Art, which has two special exhibits – Tracey Collins and Leigh Bowery, that look fascinating. Tracey Collins is an Australian photographer who we’ve not heard of, and Leigh Bowery was that larger-than-life 80’s club diva, anti-fashion fashionista, and model for some of Lucian Freud’s best, or at least most provocative, paintings, who with his clothes challenged many of our most accepted notions of what clothes are.

The Collins exhibit is challenging and hard: she uses her camera as a weapon, and there is such truth in what she has to say that I am completely overwhelmed – in particular by two series of photographs – scenes of childhood anguish caused by words said.

The Leigh Bowery exhibit, which is the one I was more interested in, proves disappointing. The clothes are on mannequins, but they don’t hold the visual power they did when he wore them. The curator has sprinkled the exhibit with a few photos of Bowery in his clothes, which for me are the most compelling things in the show. Far less successful are the many movies that are included to convey the world Bowery inhabited – most of which are self-indulgent. The impact of Bowery was the visual power of the person in the costume, or out of it in the case of the Freud portraits, and it is too bad that the curator has not focussed on these. Almost as an afterthought, there is one Freud portrait and a few Freud sketches of Bowery.

I had looked forward to an exhibit of the photos and the paintings and come away disappointed in the wrong choices of the curator.

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