“When I got off the boat from France years ago, the first person I met was Salvador Dalí, and I realized I was born surrealist,” said Isabelle Collin Dufresne, better known by her artistic nom-de-plume Ultra Violet. Dufresne died Saturday in New York City after years of battling cancer. She may have been inspired by Dalí, but she was also a legitimate artist in her own right.
Though perhaps not as well known as other “superstars” linked to Andy Warhol such as Edie Sedgwick or the Velvet Underground, Ultra Violet worked in a similar pop style. Her creations were symbolic, approachable and vibrant. Of course, she associated strongly with the color in her namesake—violet was one of the most important colors in her palette.
“It’s in my color, my signature, but it’s also in the color of mourning, the royal color,” she said of a violet memoriam to the events of September 11.
A New Yorker by choice, Ultra Violet was one of probably thousands to create art after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. “IXXI” was distinctly non-political. It neither attacks nor defends; it only memorializes. It portrays the Roman numerals for nine and 11. A palindrome, she noted.
Once allegedly “exorcised” in her hometown in France, Dufresne grew up in a conservative, religious household. It wasn’t until she came to the United States that she became a serious participant in the art world.
She is probably best known for her 1988 life reflection, Famous for 15 Minutes: My Years with Andy Warhol.
The youthful energy around many of the Factory artists didn’t always age well. As an older woman, Ultra Violet sometimes looked strange with her violet hair and flamboyant clothing, and she was sometimes criticized for producing sloppy work instead of developing a tighter style with age.
Pieces like 2007’s “Electric Love Chair” even reference the glory days of Pop Art, but Ultra Violet spent most of her life experimenting with new ideas and technologies for the production of art.
“I’m interested more in the future than in the past,” she told Ernie Manouse in a 2005 interview.