Ultra Violet (Isabelle Collin Dufresne)

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Isabelle Collin Dufresne
Ultra Violet Shankbone 2008 New York City.jpg
Ultra Violet in her New York City studio, 2008
Born (1935-09-06) 6 September 1935 (age 78)
La Tronche, Grenoble, France
Other names Ultra Violet
Occupation Actor, Writer, Artist
Ultra Violet at a celebration of the Warhol Factory, 2007

Isabelle Collin Dufresne (born 6 September 1935, La Tronche, Grenoble, France; stage name Ultra Violet) is a French-American[1] artist, author, and former colleague and superstar of Andy Warhol. Earlier in her career, she worked for and studied with surrealist artist Salvador Dalí. She lives and works in New York City, and also has a studio in Nice, France.

Early life[edit]

Isabelle Collin Dufresne was brought up in a strictly religious upper-middle-class family,[2] but she rebelled at an early age. She was instructed at a Catholic school, and then a reform school.[3] In 1953, she received a BA in Art at Le Sacre Coeur in Grenoble, France. She soon left France to live with an older sister in New York City.

In 1954, after a meeting with Salvador Dalí, she became his "muse”, pupil, and studio assistant in both Port Lligat, Spain, and in New York City. Later, she would recall, "I realized that I was 'surreal', which I never knew until I met Dalí".[4] In the 1960s, Dufresne began to follow the progressive American Pop Art scene including Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and James Rosenquist.

Warhol and the Factory[edit]

In 1963, Dalí introduced Dufresne to Andy Warhol, and soon she moved into the orbit of his unorthodox studio, "The Factory".[4] 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 often violet or lilac. She became one of many "superstars" in Warhol's Factory, and played multiple roles in over a dozen films between 1965 and 1974.

In 1967 Ultra Violet played a part in the surrealistic play Desire Caught by the Tail by Pablo Picasso when it was set for the first time in France at a festival in Saint-Tropez, among others with Taylor Mead.

At various points in her career she would meet numerous celebrities, including John Graham, John Chamberlain, Edward Ruscha, Rudolf Nureyev, Miloš Forman, Howard Hughes, Richard Nixon, Aristotle Onassis, Maria Callas, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Marc Chagall, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Yoko Ono.[2][5]

In 1969, she was "dethroned" as Warhol's primary muse by Viva, a more recent discovery.[5]

Although a full participant in activities at the Factory, she generally avoided the heavy drug usage prevalent at the time, saying that her body reacted badly to drugs. She had tried smoking as a rebellious teen, had gotten very sick as a result, and resolved to abstain from drug usage. She would later observe, "If I had lived like all those young people, I would be dead today".[5]

In the 1980s she gradually drifted away from the Factory scene, taking a lower profile and working independently on her own art. In her autobiography, published the year after Warhol's unexpected demise in 1987, she chronicled the activities of many Warhol superstars, including several untimely deaths during and after the Factory years.[6]

Later career[edit]

In 1988, Ultra Violet published her autobiography, Famous for 15 Minutes: My Years with Andy Warhol. This autobiography was edited extensively and partially translated from French to English by her New York penthouse roommate Natalie Durkee. After a review of the book in the New York Times,[2] it was published worldwide, eventually in 17 languages. After a book tour, she returned to France; in 1990 she opened a studio in Nice and wrote another book detailing her own ideas about art, L'Ultratique. She lives and works as an artist in New York City,[4] and also maintains a studio in Nice.[7]

On April 10, 2005 she joined a panel discussion "Reminiscences of Dalí: A Conversation with Friends of the Artist" as part of a symposium "The Dalí Renaissance" for a major retrospective show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.[8] Her conversation with another former Dalí protégée, French singer/actress Amanda Lear, is recorded in the 236-page exhibition catalog, The Dalí Renaissance: New Perspectives on His Life and Art after 1940.[9]

In 2006, she had a solo show at Stefan Stux Gallery in the Chelsea district of New York.[10][11] In 2007 she gave a retrospective lecture at the New York Institute of Technology.[citation needed]

In 2010, filmmaker David Henry Gerson released Ultra Violet for Sixteen Minutes, a short documentary showing her perspectives on fame, art, religion, and her current artistic practice.[12]

In 2011, she was featured in a brief article about surviving former Warhol "Superstars".[13] Regarding her famous past and her artwork today, she has said, “People always want to know about the past, but I’m much more interested in tomorrow".[14] In 2011, she showed a series of artworks as her personal memorial of the September 11 attacks, which were displayed in the exhibit Memorial IX XI at Queensborough Community College, opening on Friday, September 9.[15]

In a 2012 interview, she said, "I’m a New Yorker, I’m an American, and I’m an artist. Because of those three things, I had to do something about 9/11, and the question was what to do, which is not simple".[1]

Personal life[edit]

In 1973, a near-death experience launched Ultra Violet on a spiritual quest, culminating in her baptism in 1981. Since then, she has been a practicing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[5][7]


  • Isabelle Dufresne / Ultra Violet: Famous for 15 Minutes. My Years With Andy Warhol. (1988) Illustrated. 274 pp. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (English-language edition in paperback. Avon Books, 1990, ISBN 0-380-70843-4)
  • Isabelle Dufresne / Ultra Violet: Andy Warhol, Superstar. ISBN 3-7857-0535-2 (German, at present only a second-hand example available)
  • Isabelle Dufresne / Ultra Violet: L'Ultratique



  1. ^ a b Sturrock, Staci (January 19, 2012). "Andy & me: Ultra Violet, an Andy Warhol ‘superstar,’ visits ArtPalmBeach this weekend". pbpost. The Palm Beach Post. Retrieved 25 May 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c Glueck, Grace (November 20, 1988). "We Threw Andy Out of Our Orgy". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 May 2012. 
  3. ^ Watson, Steven. 2003. Factory made: Warhol and the sixties. New York: Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-679-42372-9. p. 204
  4. ^ a b c Scrudato, Ken (October 12, 2011). "Ultra Violet on Fame, the Factory, & Leaving Dali for Warhol". BlackBook. BlackBook. Retrieved 24 May 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d Gondouin-Haustein, Vanessa (25 August 2008). "De Dali aux Mormons, en passant par Warhol". French Morning New York (in French). French Morning. Retrieved 25 May 2012. 
  6. ^ Hubbard, Kim; Toby Kahn (November 7, 1988). "Once Andy Warhol's Ultra Violet, Isabelle Dufresne Writes the Book on Being Famous for 15 Minutes". People Magazine. Time, Inc. Retrieved 24 May 2012. 
  7. ^ a b "Nice Ultra Violet, le quart d'heure de célébrité d'une Niçoise chez Warhol". Nicematin.com (in French). Nice-Matin. 15 August 2009. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  8. ^ "(Symposium announcement)". The Dalí Renaissance: An international symposium. Philadelphia Museum of Art. April 10–11, 2005. Retrieved 24 May 2012. 
  9. ^ Taylor, edited by Michael R. (2008). The Dalí renaissance : new perspectives on his life and art after 1940 : an international symposium. New Haven, Conn.: Philadelphia Museum of Art, distributed by Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300136470. 
  10. ^ Cone, Michèle C. (2006). "Who Can Forget Ultraviolet?". artnet.com. Artnet Worldwide Corporation. Retrieved 24 May 2012. 
  11. ^ Glueck, Grace (February 17, 2006). "Art in Review; Ultra Violet". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 May 2012. 
  12. ^ "A Q&A with David Henry Gerson, Filmmaker ‘Ultra Violet for Sixteen Minutes’ Part I". The Art Dossier. The Art Dossier. June 1, 2011. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  13. ^ Berman, Judy (Apr 22, 2011). "Andy Warhol’s Superstars: Where Are They Now?". Flavorwire. Flavorpill Productions, LLC. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  14. ^ McElroy, Steven (July 1, 2011). "A ‘Factory’ Worker Glances Back". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 May 2012. 
  15. ^ Carlson, Jen. "Salvador Dalí Muse, Ultra Violet, Creates 9/11 Sculpture". Salvador Dalí Muse, Ultra Violet, Creates 9/11 Sculpture. 

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