Friday, February 2, 2007
Late last year Chronicle Books published a coffee-table book, entitled Girl On Fire, on Warhol superstar Edie Sedgwick that is among the most beautifully rendered and heartfelt books I have ever purchased.
Sedgwick has been the subject of books before but Melissa Painter and David Weisman have put together the definitive portrait of one of our most beautiful lost souls.
The first thing you notice about the book is the incredible cover design. The plastic sleeve that protects the hardbound cover is a perfect symbol for Edie's time at Warhol's factory. It's also fitting that removing the sleeve reveals more of what's underneath, fitting as this book uncovers layers of Edie Sedgwick that have just been hinted at in the past.
The many people who buy this book hoping to find unpublished photos of her at Warhol's factory will not be disappointed. It brings that period vividly to life but it's the photos of Edie before and after Warhol that are really eye opening. Unreleased early family photos, modeling sessions and candid shots from her final years show an incredibly beautiful, haunted woman who has been inspiring people simply by being just herself since her death at just 28. I've spent 20 years seeing photos and films of Edie Sedgwick but she seems so fresh in many of these photos that at times she feels completely new again. Staring at this face through these 200 pages makes it clear how she inspired Patti Smith as a teenager and why Lou Reed, John Cale and Bob Dylan all wrote songs about her.
The book is filled with heart-felt and honest text from friends and associates and we are given a story of a very abused young girl who spent her life finding different dimensions of herself to give. We are shown clearly that ultimately a person is responsible for themselves, but a little more compassion for those obviously damaged wouldn't hurt.
A cd is included with outtakes of the interviews she gave for her final film, the holocaust like but brilliant Ciao Manhattan. She sounds lucid and drugged, controlled and teetering on disaster all at the same time.
Edie Sedgwick will always be associated with Andy Warhol and it's an oddly touching unearthed postcard that she sent him after his shooting that provides a finality to their doomed relationship. Sent from the wilderness years after they had last worked together, it shows that they would always be inexplicably connected.
It's hard for me to leave emotion aside viewing this wondrous book. Looking through it for the first time was like un-earthing a shoe box filled with forgotten photos of a lost young love. I can't recommend it highly enough, it's a hypnotic snapshot of a captivating young woman who was both in total control and a lost deer caught in the spotlight.