Drag queens, studs, hustlers, popstars, superstars, heiresses, artists, art tits; anything went at Andy Warhol’s Factory and as today marks the day one of his fabled Time Capsules is opened at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, we remember the original beautiful people. With her sharp violet bob, and vibrant art career, Ultra Violet is as much the icon today as she was in the ‘60s.
Born Isabelle Collin Dufresne, Ultra Violet metamorphosised into her superstar persona in 1963, started dying her hair purple and soon changed her name. Two years later she captivated Warhol’s heart when she stumbled in to The Factory colour-co-ordinating her purple locks with a pink Chanel suit. As such a vocal part of The Factory scene, Violet was at one point so famous, she received a letter addressed simply to ‘Ultra, New York’. She remembers The Factory as “an assembly line for peoples, films, ideas, concepts, money and fame,” her favourite memory being when Andy lost his toupee and was left bald with a metal snap embedded in his skull. Although Ultra is still good friends with Taylor Mead and Billy Name, she left The Factory to pursue a career of her own in the early ‘70s, and has since been busy with the paintbrush, establishing herself as a prominent avant-garde artist on the New York scene. “I decided to pursue a career in art to uplift the catastrophic state of the current art field,” she informs. Working on large canvases, light installations and sculptures, Ultra paints a spiritual universe of rainbows, blue skies, white clouds and Mickey Mouse with angel wings, to berate the chaos and destruction of the 21st century world. While her more politically motivated works include Burned Bra, You Say You Want A Revolution, and current hit Pistol Phallus. One piece of work was an electric chair designed to hold two people, entitled Til Death Do Us Part, Ultra Violet says her inspiration for the bright colours and LED lights in her work is not a consequence of the psychedelia of the sixties, but rather her unwavering faith. “I believe in light, hence my name. I believe the Big Bang was ‘Let there be light.’ Without light there would not be life or a universe,” she explains. Author of the infamous Warhol memoirs Famous For Fifteen Minutes: My Life With Andy Warhol – “everyone should keep a diary so I did” – Violet is currently working on another book about her spiritual journey titled Reform Or Perish. She also does a lot of charity work – “I am learning, the hard way, that life is about service.”