AlphaBowie: Where Music Meets Art & Typography Rules

By: Sierra Voss

The world around us tiggers human emotions that drive creative expression. These creative expressions may take forms in visual, physical, or musical art. Some artists may focus solely on visual expressions, while others only on musical expressions. Although different, they share the same language, as they work to interpret and express individual reactions to the world. Some artists, however, exists within the in between. These artists explore the intersections of how one art form feeds the other. Meet Colorado native Madeline Reusch. Madeline has created a project called AlphaBowie, which explores the intersection of art forms via the exploration of a man that truly embodied interdisciplinary creative expression, David Bowie.   

How does music inspire your art?

I grew up in an incredibly musical family- picture The Sound of Music minus the lederhosen. I have been singing in bands and choirs since I was old enough to walk. I have always been a musician first, and a visual artist second. When you come from a musical perspective and then fall in love with visual art, I think it's impossible to separate them.

To me, art and music are two mediums being used to express the same worldview. I’ve always fixated on the beauty of dissonance. I think it comes form my obsession with jazz and choral music. There is this eclectic pulsing buzz that comes from the beauty of dissonance, [whether] visual or harmonic, it’s a powerful wave that moves through your whole body and takes you to a brand new world. Whether it’s the complicated harmonies of Eric Whitacre or the vibrating painted fields of Mark Rothko, they come from the same place: from a desire to take things you may have seen or heard a thousand times, marry the two, and allow you to see them again in a whole new light.

Is this the first time you have based a project around a musician?

This is the first time I have done a piece that used a likeness of a musician in it. But that’s because Bowie is so much more than a musician. In a way, it’s a shame to only classify him that way. He was a painter, writer, choreographer, clothing designer, set builder and so so so much more. He even designed a computer program that generated lyrics. He didn’t just create things that changed our world, he built his own world and then invited us to join him there. His very physical existence was his art. It takes an incredibly brave person to put your whole physical self out into the world and say, “This is my work, this is my heart, what do you think of it?” I can hardly post a selfie online without wanting to collapse in on myself; I can't imagine the bravery his whole life took.

What inspired your Bowie project?

On the day Bowie passed, I was lying in bed, wishing I was asleep, and flipping through my phone absentmindedly. I read the headline that he had died. It didn’t really feel real to me at all. I was taking a typography class, and I had some project due that day that I had put off where I was supposed to make letters out of unexpected things. So, I decided to make my creative alphabet out of Bowie. And not just Bowie associated things, but Bowie himself. I think when I started the Bowie project, I was doing it because I wanted to insert something I was passionate about into a world that I was having trouble connecting with. But by the time I had finished it, I had gained such a deep deep respect for type artists and their work.

Why an alphabet?

Type artists truly understand how humans see; how we digest the visual world. They understand the importance of a single curve and how a series of well constructed and thoughtful shapes can take readers to new places. They create worlds, just like Bowie did.

Bowie never did just one thing. He expressed himself in every medium he could get his hands on. In my life I’d like to do the same thing and this seemed like a good place to start. Also, from a less philosophical place, I just wanted to find a way to share the joy Bowie had given to me with other people. Everyone loves a good rock poster, so I thought this would be a fun twist on that.

Take us inside the creation of this project. How did you do it?

I feel like the first word that comes to mind when I think of this process is LONG (laughs). Each shape I drew by hand, and I probably had about four or five possible poses/images in mind for each letter. I did at least 200 preliminary drawings before I really narrowed it down to what I wanted to make. The shapes themselves came from a huge bank of Bowie images, and stills from his music videos and live performances.

What’s your favorite Bowie song?

Ugh. No. I won't pick one. ButI think my favorite album is The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust just because it was the first one I ever owned.

Do you think you will do more musician-inspired art in the future?

Oh I absolutely will. There are so many wonderful artists who have shaped me, and I want to find a way to honor and thank them. Stevie Wonder is a big one for me. Huge. But it will have to be the right project at the right time.

How can someone get a hold of this alphabet?

Right now you can get prints on my Society6 Page. It’s linked through the @alpha_bowie Instagram too. Keep an eye out for the launch of the AlphaBowie website as well!


All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artist featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.