October 30, 2008
From Fifteen Minutes to ForeverFreeze Framing the Girl on Fire
“I would like to turn the world on, just for a moment … just for a moment,” so spoke AndyWarhol’s brightest burning – and arguably quickest dimming – Superstar, the girl on fire, thePoor Little Rich Girl, Edie Sedgwick.When Andy Warhol introduced Sedgwick to his factory in 1965, he thought he was turning thecamera on for her first screen test. Four minutes and one reel later it was obvious that Edieturned his world on – and sparked the creative flame propelling Warhol into pop history.The iconic enigma embodied the Silver Sixties right down to her silver locks. Sedgwick’sturbulent tale from the psychiatric ward Silver Hill to the underground Manhattan silver screen isthat of pop culture legend. Edie was an heiress to the Sedgwick fortune, American aristocraticroyalty. Her ancestors helped found and legislate Massachusetts, invented the elevator, edited the
, founded the Groton School, and led the first Black regiment to go into combatin the American Civil War. Edie, though, burned the Sedgwick name into modern Americanhistory by leading the trailblazing band of “Youthquakers” in the revolutionary 1960s.While she said she felt “Andy was throwing America back in its face,” Edie herself became theface of the Pop America Andy helped create. The heiress to traditional American aristocraticroyalty became the protagonist dictating the modern American celebrity royalty tale. Sedgwick was unlimited in her beyond-just-pop breadth and depth of impact. To rock legend Patti Smith,“She was such a strong image that I thought, ‘That's it.’ It represented everything to me, radiatingintelligence, speed, being connected with the moment.”She was the culmination of cultures, new and old, the collision marking creation. Celebritymilliner Stephen Jones signified Sedgwick’s undeniable cultural foothold, “Iconic societywomen had always been demure and elegant. Sedgwick was downtown not uptown, active not passive, sunglasses not ball gowns. Her look was a mixture of sweet and sour; an angelic facedistorted with bleached hair and disfiguring make-up. You could call her the first punk.” Evenstill, Edie’s metaphysical
je ne sais quais
broke through the façade; she attracted, infatuated, andcaptivated anyone and everyone within her reach – leaving them spellbound.Her
joie de vivre
and style influenced contemporaries and followers alike. Grandmother tomodern “celebutantes” – think Mary Kate, Ashley, Lindsay, and Paris –; colleague and comradeto Salvador Dali, Truman Capote, Allen Ginsberg, and Robert Kennedy; and muse to Bob Dylan,Betsey Johnson, and Andy Warhol. Edie encapsulates modern American history beyond merecorrespondence. She embodies the culture in theory and practice. The original “Queen of the New York Underground” first coined the Warholian “15 minutes” term years before the Pop Artdeity himself. Sedgwick lived her art. As the first true performance artist of modern pop culture,life and art did not imitate one another; rather they were one in the same.