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Art of glass – the many faces of Debbie Harry

25 October 2019

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories

‘Colour me your colour, baby,’ sang Debbie Harry at the start of ‘Call Me’ – and, as Face It, her recently published memoir reveals, artists of all stamps have eagerly taken up the request.

In New York, the singer was snapped by Robert Mapplethorpe and Andy Warhol; the latter, Harry reveals, once remarked that ‘if he could have anyone else’s face, it would be [Harry’s]’. She also discloses that she once shared a ‘magnetic’ kiss with Jean-Michel Basquiat – while she was dressed as a bag lady on the set of New York Beat Movie. (She also, apparently, bought the first painting that Basquiat ever sold; the artist went away with $300 declaring ‘I really took them for a ride!’)

Cover art for Kookoo (1981), H.R. Giger

Rakewell is especially tickled by the report of Harry’s meeting with H.R. Giger, the reclusive Swiss painter who designed the alien for Alien, at a party at the Hansen Gallery in New York. Harry describes the ‘contrast between his art, which to most people was subliminally frightening, extreme, and almost intolerable’, and the ‘cuddly German teddy bear’ she found in real life, with his thick accent and deliberate manner. Giger went on to create the artwork for Harry’s Kookoo album.

So artists were forever hanging on the telephone – but the memoir reveals how Harry took inspiration from artists, too. Most eye catching is her assertion that ‘Like Andy [Warhol], I felt the influence of Marcel Duchamp and a kinship to Dada’. Rakewell wonders whether she was inspired by Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even – better known as The Large Glass, in which the erotic energy of a group of bachelors wafts its way in gaseous form toward the bride, only to be frozen and eternally frustrated by the vitreous nature of the work itself. After all, it was Harry who sang: ‘Once I had a love and it was a gas / Soon turned out had a heart of glass.’

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.