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From the archives: Andy Warhol’s Mormon sidekick

First Published      Last Updated Jun 19 2014 07:59 am

Editor's note • French-born Isabelle Collin Dufresne, who kicked around with pop artist Andy Warhol in the '60s as Ultra Violet and eventually converted to Mormonism, died Saturday.

She was 78.

Her funeral was Wednesday in an LDS chapel on the east side of New York City.

Here is a 2004 Salt Lake Tribune story about Dufresne and Mormons living in the Big Apple:


New York • Isabelle Dufresne left France for America in the freedom-loving 1960s and became the flamboyant Ultra Violet, Andy Warhol's sidekick in his pop universe of parties, drugs, orgies, art and filmmaking. To members of her Mormon singles ward, though, Ultra Violet is just "Sister Dufresne," the quiet woman with a slight French accent who teaches at the monthly Relief Society Enrichment Night.

Such an eccentric artist is not unusual in New York City LDS congregations, which boast daytime soap stars, Broadway set designers and Martha Stewart assistants, not to mention dozens of painters, musicians, writers, opera singers, top models and aspiring actors.

This is an LDS community unlike any other, said American history professor Richard Bushman of Columbia University.

"There is a powerful artistic presence and a powerful professional presence in the wards here," says Bushman, who lives with his wife, Claudia Bushman, in a book-lined apartment overlooking Riverside Park.

There is also a wide range of diversity. The city's LDS congregations include three English-speaking family wards, three singles wards, two Spanish-speaking wards, one Chinese branch, one deaf branch and a branch in Harlem.

That diversity is even more pronounced in the outlying areas of Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens and the Bronx, where pairs of dark-suited Mormon missionaries from Finland, Uzbekistan, England, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Russia can be seen seeking converts.

Thousands of members will come together this weekend to mark the completion of the faith's first temple in New York City.

Tonight, 1,200 Mormon youths will present an evening of song and dance at Radio City Music Hall. On Sunday, more than 15,000 members, including Dufresne, will be on hand when LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicates the temple on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

It is the 119th temple built by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a "house of the Lord," where Mormons reaffirm the teachings of Jesus Christ through sacred rituals of marriage, baptism and "sealings," which unite families for eternity.

Unlike most LDS temples that sit on large chunks of property, surrounded by manicured gardens, this one is in four floors of a six-story building the LDS Church already owned on Columbus Avenue. The temple in Hong Kong is similarly situated.

The temple's proximity to the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts attracted much media attention during a five-week open house. More than 54,000 people toured the Mormon holy site, including U.N. ambassadors, Democratic U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Charles Rangel and Mike Wallace of "60 Minutes," who has become Hinckley's good friend.

"I do believe in miracles and the temple in Manhattan is the greatest miracle I have witnessed," Dufresne said this week at her penthouse apartment overlooking the Guggenheim Museum. "It gives us hope. It's a sign of comfort that the prophet is alive and he is coming here."

Mormon artists: LDS artists first started coming to New York City to study in the early 20th century. Mahonri Young, who sculpted the "Miracle of the Gulls," and Avard Fairbanks, whose works include monuments on Salt Lake City's Temple Square and Relief Society building, studied at the Art Students League. So did a dozen Mormon painters along with such notables as Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, Georgia O'Keefe and Roy Lichtenstein.

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