Artist's Exhibit Caps Off Decade of 9/11 Work

By Mathew Katz on September 7, 2011 2:48pm 

Ultra Violet's three-foot-tall sculpture of her design will be unveiled in Queens on Friday.
Ultra Violet's three-foot-tall sculpture of her design will be unveiled in Queens on Friday.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

CHELSEA — After 9/11, Chelsea-based Ultra Violet struggled with a way to deal with the shocking events of that day, both as a New Yorker and as an artist.

"I had to address the subject as an artist," she said. "But I didn't want to write a nine and a one-one. It's too simple."

So just months after 9/11, the 76-year-old artist, who was born in France as Isabelle Collin Dufresne, came up with what she calls an elegant way to commemorate and understand the tragedy with her patented design, the palindromic IX XI.

Ten years later, Chelsea-based artist Ultra Violet's studio is covered in 9/11 — or at least the Roman numerals for it.

The design fills her West Chelsea studio: on statuettes, paintings, photos, and a 3-foot-tall aluminum sculpture that will be unveiled at 'Memorial IX XI', an exhibit opening at CUNY's Queensborough Community College Friday.

Ultra Violet's commemoration also takes other forms, including several paintings of Mickey Mouse, with 9/11 (or IX XI) listed as the date of his death.

"America's not the same," she said. "The innocence and joy of living has been interrupted. The good humor, the naivete. Not all is well."

Ultra Violet, who was close with Andy Warhol in the 1960s and has work in the Centre Pompidou art museum in Paris, also uses the design in darker ways. One image, called 'Tragedy', features workers jumping out of a tower on 9/11.

Another, 'Nuclear Terrorism,' spells out IX XI in bones, on top of a large mushroom cloud.

"That's where the world was heading," she said.

After nearly a decade of working on the subject, Ultra Violet said she hopes she's helped immortalize the victims, but that the 10th anniversary might be the last use of the IX XI design.

"I have to move on. We have to move on," she said.

"We have to cherish life again."

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