Warhol’s Mid-Sixties Muse

 

Burt Glinn’s career in photographic reportage spanned five decades, during which time he covered the Sinai War, the US Marine invasion of Lebanon and Fidel Castro’s takeover of Cuba. Versatile and technically brilliant, Glinn was also one of Magnum’s great commercial and advertising photographers. In 1965 he produced a photograph which embodied the spirit of New York’s avant-garde and the seductive lifestyle of the Warhol Superstars.

The trio captured by Glinn on the streets of New York in 1965 had met earlier that same year, when Edie Sedgwick and her friend Chuck Wein attended a party at the apartment of film, television and theatre producer Lester Persky. Warhol was in the midst of controversy as his Pop paintings of American consumerism, made at the infamous ‘Factory’, scandalized critics. Sedgwick, an heiress and aspiring model fresh from the elite bohemian fringes of the Harvard social scene, had recently moved to New York.

Warhol and Sedgwick, two opposing spirits, were instantly attracted to one another and would remain closely linked over the coming year. Turning her back on her illustrious and troubled family, Glinn’s image seems to capture something of the transition which Sedgwick was facing at this time. The model turns towards the camera, and with it towards her new life as Warhol’s muse, model and motivation. Sedgwick’s transformation included a new look: heavily-lined eyes, statement earrings and closely-cropped hair: she was to be the ‘girl of the year’ in 1965, declared both ‘It-Girl’ and ‘Youthquaker’.

Critics have noted Warhol and Sedgwick’s close mirroring of one another during this period; Edie was said to have silvered her hair to match Warhol’s roster of headpieces as well as the Factory’s interior, recently redecorated in aluminium foil wall coverings and silver spray paint by artist Billy Name. Whilst Sedgwick transformed herself into the artist’s muse, Warhol turned towards filmmaking. Although Warhol had started shooting films in the Factory around 1963, Edie was to become a catalyst in the development of the artist. She was present, a few weeks following their first meeting, in Paris for the opening of the artist’s Flower paintings exhibition at the Ileana Sonnabend Gallery, where Warhol decided “it was the place to make the announcement I’d been thinking about making for months: I was going to retire from painting.”

The move from painting to filmmaking and the years 1965 and early 1966 saw Warhol, Sedgwick and Wein make nine films together, with Wein acting variously as Warhol’s assistant director, Sedgwick’s agent, and close friend to both. The first film to feature Sedgwick was Vinyl, into the all-male cast of which Warhol inserted the model following her visit to the Factory during filming. Warhol and Sedgwick’s time as collaborators and paramours was short-lived, however, as by the end of 1966 Sedgwick had left the artist and was increasingly estranged from the Factory’s inner circles. Glinn’s portrait of the trio remains a testament to the apogee of their creative collaboration.

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