13 Most Beautiful

Andy Warhol's moving portraits had always fascinated me.  At least the idea of them.  It was a few years before I actually had a chance to see one.  I think it was at Dia Beacon or some other museum, and the few films they had were shown starkly, silently, against a wall in a mostly dark room.  I liked a couple of them, but to be honest, I also found them a little boring.  I'm sure Warhol at least partly intended this response.  It was as if he was testing the audience.  How long can you sit and look at a face?  When that face is Edie Sedgwick, well, I can look at it for a while.  But some of the others weren't as immediately captivating.  Then, a few years ago, I found a DVD in a bookstore in Detroit of "13 Most Beautiful"--the selected Warhol films that Dean & Britta (formerly of Luna, Galaxie 500, etc) had written songs for.  I was curious and bought it.  When I got home and watched, it felt like they had added what was for me a necessary element:  sound.  The films came to life, felt more emotional, and I would leave it playing sometimes while I was doing other things in the room.  I'm sure some critics would say this spoiled Warhol's pure intention, but his art was one that copied, co-opted, and inverted the world around him, so it seems natural to have someone "remix" his work.  Also around this time I was reading some Buddhist literature, and watching the videos of BIll Viola, who is a master of the long (incredibly long) take; scenes that barely seem to move until they suddenly come to life.  Degraded video that becomes beautiful as it pixelates and the noise swims across your screen.  Here I felt were works with a kindred spirit.  Staring unblinking at the faces of people, every spark or visual flair stripped away, just the soul looking back (or in Lou Reed's case, covered by his shades).  One woman even lets a single tear fall.  This idea of looking unceasingly into another's face echoes ideas in Buddhism.  What was your face before you were the person you are now?  What is behind the facade?  Marina Abromovicz picked up this thread in her now-famous work she did sitting across from strangers for hours at a stretch at the Museum of Modern Art.  I find this idea of looking very simply into another's face a very beautiful thing.  I guess that is why I am, among other things, a portrait photographer.