Recently we attended the Molly Barnes Brown Bag Lecture series featuring Ultra-Violet at The Roger Smith Hotel in NYC. Molly was charming as usual, and knows how to lead a crowd (with the exception of introducing someone as the long deceased Charlie Mingus).
For those not “hip” enough to know, UV was a “superstar” and muse for Warhol and Dali back in the day. Beyond her elevated groupy status (Warhol eventually replaced her with a younger girl “Viva”), UV separates herself from the pack with her own recent works. Admittedly, I did not have high hopes for this event. In my mind, it would be like meeting the former Highschool badass, who only has the same old story to tell; “do you remember that one time man? When we had____ and did____?”. Warhol’s famous Factory was a constant party-scene, and one would expect any survivors to be burnt-out and at best confused.
However, when UV stepped out wearing an elegant purple dress and looking more awake than the crowd, I knew this event would be different. Despite the fact that this woman could be my grandma, she was hip and aware, while at the same time having the experience of the older art generation. The show started with UV comparing some of her recent works side-by side with Dali’s and Warhol’s masterpieces. This takes a lot of brass to straight up compare yourself to the greats, and only a woman like UV could pull it off without getting laughed at. “Mine is better”, she said in a confident tone after each slide. Her works were very inspiring, particularly the one with two electric chairs combined for a couple (like a twisted version of a love seat).
But however awesome the works are, they could not be considered the next Warhol silkscreens. This is a woman who will always be eclipsed by the people she worked with. UV knows this too, just look at her book title “Famous for Fifteen Minutes, My Time with Andy Warhol”.It is uplifting to see her still creating this great art when some people will sadly only think of her as “the Warhol lady”.
The audience questions were the most amusing part of this event. UV was sharp as a whip, and refused to bow down to pseudo intellectual questions. One woman asked “how does today’s pop-culture effect the art world”, and UV quickly replied “what is today’s pop-culture?”. Of course the woman was baffled and had no answer. Many questions were the expected ones about Warhol and Dali, which did give a unique firsthand account that wouldn’t be found elsewhere. Perhaps the best information gleaned from the Q&A was how UV’s life has changed. She started off her life as a rebel in a strict Catholic family, and eventually was kicked out of boarding school. Nowadays, she is very religious and her work focuses on morality. I wish my grandma was this cool (sorry!).