Isabelle Collin Dufresne, better known as the Warhol ‘Superstar’ Ultra Violet, has died at a Manhattan hospital. It is rare that we miss reporting the passing of someone so seminal as this, but even though a month has elaspsed it is still relevant to Artlyst. Born 6 September 1935 in La Tronche, Grenoble, France. Her stage name Ultra Violet was a reference to her hair colour. She was an artist, author, actress and former Warhol factory fixture. Dufresne was brought up in a strictly religious family but rebelled at an early age. Isabelle was instructed at a Catholic school but found the environment stifling.
Dufresne left France to seek fame and fortune in New York and she certainly created a name and reputation for herself. After a chance meeting with Salvador Dalí, she became his “muse” and pupil and then became an artist in her own right. In the 1960s, Dufresne began to follow the progressive American art scene including Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and James Rosenquist. She eventually came into contact with Andy Warhol and his Factory. In 1964, she selected the stage name Ultra Violet at Warhol’s suggestion because it was her preferred fashion—her hair color at the time was normally violet or lilac coloured. She became one of many “superstars” in Warhol’s Factory and played multiple roles in his films. Towards the late 1960s, she was “dethroned” in favor of Viva, a more recent discovery.
Ultra appeared in several movies including John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy, Merchant Ivory’s Savages, Milos Forman’s Taking Off, Norman Mailer’s Maidstone, and Woody Allen’s Night Train and Paul Mazursky films. Acted as queen Natolia from Saturn in “Conquest of the Universe” with the famed “Theater of the Ridiculous,” directed by John Vaccaro. Her best selling memoir, Famous For Fifteen Minutes: My Years With Andy Warhol, was published in 1988 and has been issued in seventeen different versions.
Ultra Violet died just three weeks after her final exhibition, which showed a selection of her paintings, sculptures, film and neon works, closed at the Dillon Gallery, NY. Her death was confirmed by William Butler, a family friend. A cousin, Carole Thouvard Revol, confirmed the cause was cancer. In the 1980s, she renounced drug use, excessive sex and the egotism which existed at the Factory. With echoes of Betty Page, she became a born again Christian and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that’s right a follower of the Book of Morman, folks!
Photo: David Shankbone via Tumblr