While the world mourns the loss of one of music’s most ingenious creators, David Bowie, one of its most tortured and talented American artists, Chuck Connelly, has paid him tribute with a haunting new oil on canvas painting.
Connelly, who gave up the New York art scene in the early ’90s after falling out with the major galleries, says he’s always felt connected to Bowie for his free-wheeling expressive art – and also the fact that Bowie’s birthday is one day after his own.
‘I’ve always liked David,’ Connelly told the DailyMail.com. ‘I feel like his death means the end of an age is coming – the end of creativity, of creative freedom. And the whole punk rock glam sensibility.’
Artist Chuck Connelly has always felt a ‘connection’ to David Bowie and painted his portrait (pictured) as a tribute after his death
Bowie, says the artist, ‘died with dignity’ and Connelly respects the way he made his death into art
Connelly says he has a tendency to paint people after they die, including family members.
‘He had a sense of style.’ he says of Bowie, who died last week of cancer aged 69. ‘I liked his face and his songs. I liked the whole package. He did it with dignity and he died with dignity. And he was still doing art! He was aware that he was going to die and made it into art. I find that real classy.’
‘The real artists are gone now,’ he sighs. ‘It’s all crap merchandising produced out of a factory.’
Connelly says he’s still touching up the Bowie painting, which he finished last week in only two days.
He’s also working on two more Bowie works of art – one of Bowie as a small child around age eight, and another of him in his later years.
The current painting is of Bowie in his Man Who Fell to Earth movie from 1976. Connelly worked from a photo still – although he did once meet the legend, back in 1983.
Connelly (left) only met the legendary singer once and showed him some of his paintings – ‘He never got old looking’ he says admiringly of the star
At the time, Connelly was working out of a loft space on the Lower East Side. He had a friend whose husband played in Bowie’s band, he says.
After the friend told the singer that Connelly was an artist Bowie might appreciate, Bowie tracked down the painter, who was hanging out at his local pub.
Someone told Connelly that there was a man who wanted to meet him – and Connelly walked outside and saw a waiting car. When the window rolled down, there was none other than David Bowie staring at him.
‘So I hear you’re a great artist,’ the painter says Bowie told him. Connelly offered to bring him to his work space to view some paintings and Bowie agreed.
At the time, Connelly was in the midst of changing spaces so he had only a ‘few, weird experimental things’ he could show the pop star.
‘I don’t think he knew what to say – I don’t remember what he talked about,’ he laughs, clearly embarrassed. ‘I’m pretty sure I said, ‘It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Bowie.’ But I wish he’d gotten to see more of my paintings.’
Connelly’s career hit the skids in the early 1990s after he fell out with major art dealers including Charles Saatchi and then publicly panned a film made about him by Martin Scorsese.
He now lives in a rambling Victorian detached Philadelphia house with a cat and 3,000 of his canvases.
He is currently enjoying a renaissance after a show in 2015 once again captured the eye of the New York art world.
Asked if he’d put some of his works on Instagram, Connelly was baffled but bemused. ‘I don’t know anything about that!’ he said.
As for whether he will sell the Bowie paintings, Connelly at first says, ‘If the price is right,’ but then he starts to backtrack.
‘It’s not about money. I’m just trying to get stuff out there. I don’t want to hustle. I don’t want to think about sales. My goal is to never have to sell another painting.’
But he admits that he might reproduce some of the three Bowie paintings he’s working on now – with different colors and backgrounds.
‘He just never got old looking,’ he says of the star.