Ultra Violet — Artist and Friend of Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol — Dies at 78

“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.

 This is a guest post from Zach Lind­sey, an Eng­lish as a Sec­ond Lan­guage Teacher liv­ing in Austin, Texas. He’s writ­ten about artists’ mus­es before, for Lehigh Val­ley Style and Be About It.

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