Factory Girl and Pop Art
The Beatnik/Pop Art era of the 50s and 60s in New York City was the precursor to the Counter Culture movement of the late 60s and early 70s. Emerging as it did out of a culturally repressive moment in time, that era saw an explosion of innovative ideas in art, poetry, music, politics, lifestyles, and popular philosophy. Last night I saw Director George Hickenlooper’s version of a corner of that historical moment focused around Edie Sedgwick’s life and Andy Warhol’s art Factory. The movie is ironically titled “Factory Girl”, as Edie was from a wealthy family and also a very visible Warhol Factory personage. That moment also appears to be particularly linked to the growth of America’s addiction to celebrity. Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans and Brillo Boxes telescoped the new world of “pop convenience products.” His silk screens of superstars like Marilyn Monroe changed their images from “real life” to embolden colored ghost images . . . something super celebrity status itself seems to do in our society. Warhol’s art depicts a world that is all shiny surface and no depth, and in “Factory Girl”, he seems to do that with humans. Edie is his first success. There was, however, another corner of pop art created by artists like Peter Max. Where Warhol presents a vacuous world (whether by critical intention or because that’s all he could feel . . .I can never decide), Max’s world has the same ecstatic colors, but is imbued with optimistic joy for life, an exuberance for which Warhol would never think of aiming. Sedgwick, brilliantly portrayed by Sienna Miller, had a sad, lost life. Drugs played a huge part, as did her dysfunctional family. Warhol, chillingly played by Guy Pearce, takes a lot of heat for her plight in this film, but really, the whole Factory crowd comes off as both glamorously narcissistic and emotionally vacant (shutdown). It is that aspect of that scene which interests me the most.