powerfully intimate portraits of octogenarian warhol superstar ivy nicholson
Ivy Nicholson has been on the cover of ‘Vogue,’ starred in Andy Warhol’s Factory films, had her portrait painted by Salvador Dalí, and lived on the streets of Los Angeles. Photographer Conrad Ventur celebrates her stranger-than-fiction life with ‘Ivy...
There are thousands of photographs of Ivy Nicholson. Some of them are from the 1950s, when the Brooklyn-born beauty worked as a model in Paris at 16. These were taken for Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and Elle; in them, Ivy wears Givenchy, and poses with Pucci himself. Some of them are from the 60s, when Ivy returned to the States as an actress and fell in with Andy Warhol's Factory crowd. She appeared in a number of the pop artist's silent screen tests and underground films like 13 Most Beautiful Women, Couch, and 24-Hour Movie, becoming one of Warhol's eclectic band of superstars. More recent images capture the now octogenarian Nicholson's periods of transience and homelessness. Ivy — a new exhibition of portraits by Conrad Ventur opening tonight at New York's Baxter Street Camera Club — is a celebration of Nicholson's rich, at times improbable, life.
Ventur and Nicholson came together for the New York-based artist's ongoing project of capturing Warhol's superstars 45 years later. He's worked with John Giorno, Jonas Mekas, and Ultra Violet to re-stage their original Warhol screen tests — encouraging a new collaboration between artist and subject. According to the exhibition's release, Nicholson has relished her return to the limelight as a muse. Her collaboration with Ventur has shape-shifted into a series of intimate images that navigate the spaces between her larger-than-life constructed identity as an exuberant performer and her authentic — often more vulnerable — self.
Some of Nicholson's stories are too insane to disbelieve: She knew Salvador Dalí was a bit of a perv, so she booked a photographer to come along when the artist invited her for a portrait sitting. Her first husband was a French count; her second, a director she met on the street and married two weeks later during a "wacky" ceremony in North Carolina (he was 18, she was 30). Fellini didn't put her in 8 ½ because she was suicidal. She didn't have anything to wear to a Vogue meeting, so she showed up in a sheet and they booked her anyway. Ivy's images distill this eccentricity — they show Nicholson in self-styled costumes, hurling leaves into the air. But they also show Nicholson at home with her adult children, snapped at birthday celebrations or during quiet moments. Ultimately, the portraits don't obsess about her history, her stardom, or her choices. Ventur presents a multi-faceted and unique portrait of a human being.
'Ivy' is on view at the Baxter Street Camera Club of New York from November 2 to December 3, 2016. More information here.
Text Emily Manning