Former ’80s it-girl Paige Powell shares her treasure trove of scene pics in The New York Times and WHOOOOWEEE, there are some doozies included. Everybody who was anybody at the time is there –Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, David LaChapelle, China Chow, Anita Sarko and more!
Powell arrived in New York in 1980 from the Pacific Northwest, looking like a granola version of Edie Sedgwick and armed with the work ethic of Mary Tyler Moore. She was soon swept up in Interview’s bid to be a more serious publication — “At first it was more for friends, like, Fran Lebowitz drove the delivery truck to drop off issues at different newsstands,” she remembers — and Andy Warhol’s select social whirlwind of downtown clubbing, midtown shopping and uptown lunches. “Andy always said, ‘Work is fun and fun is work,’” Powell says. “It was just the way I thought New York City was, all the time, for everyone — exuberant.”
Paige moved back to Portland in the ’90s to focus on animal rights advocacy, and her pics have been stashed in boxes under the bed, unexamined, for almost 40 years. Now, in two interactive multimedia installations, “The Ride” and “Beulah Land,” opening this week at the Portland Art Museum she will showcase them for the first time.
Still in possession of plenty of influential friends, Powell asked David LaChapelle to mix a musical soundtrack for the show and Kenny Scharf to create a signature “Cosmic Cavern” to accompany it.
“Paige Powell: The Ride” and “Beulah Land” are on view Nov. 5 – Feb. 21 at the Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park Ave., Portland, portlandartmuseum.org.
Writes Paige: “Fresh 14 was a short-lived club with great energy and a horrible sound system, which might account for the expression on Madonna’s face,” Powell says of this photo. “Unfortunately, two kids shot each other there and it closed. When I was in New York recently, I noticed that space is now a Forever 21.”
“Keith was totally adoring of Andy, and he came to visit us sometimes — I have a video of him painting a life-size papier-mâché elephant in Andy’s studio in ‘The Ride’ installation. He’s lying on his back to paint the underbelly and doesn’t spill a single drop of paint. It’s pretty incredible. And we would visit him in his studio or there at the Pop Shop — it wasn’t a place where tourists went, not like it became in the ’90s. At first it was a art space, a hangout, a performance space — very cool stuff happened there.”
“Jean-Michel made this painting for a trade that Bruno set up,” Powell says, referring to the Swiss art dealer Bruno Bischofberger. “I remember it was still wet when it arrived at the studio. Andy didn’t think much of it until they became friends.”
“This was an amazing trip we took to Hana, Maui, where we stayed with Jean-Michel’s father, stepmother and sister in these charming plantation-style wooden houses that were owned by some collectors from Texas. Jean-Michel was so happy there. He also made these paintings I helped him apply watercolor to, and then we would throw them in the dryer. I’ve never seen any of them displayed — I wonder what happened to them?”
“Texarkana on West 10th Street was one of our homes away from home, and Andy took people out to dinner there. Tim and Joey worked at Fiorucci, and Andy loved to shop there because of the fun atmosphere and all the cute kids. Andy really loved Tim. Unfortunately he’s gone now, but Andy did a drawing of his shoe on a napkin at the table that night — like the old illustrations he did in his early career. That’s what Tim is holding up.”
“Eric Goode asked Andy to be a part of the ‘Invisible Sculpture’ series, so Andy just stood there in the window alone for 30 minutes while people looked at him behind the glass, or stood around talking and ignoring him. I think he came up with that himself. The windows were pretty cool performance spaces — once there were these girls living in the windows, just doing everyday stuff as if we weren’t all nightclubbing around them.”
“Nippon restaurant was another regular hangout — not the formal dining room on 52nd Street but the country-style location on 59th Street. It was a soothing place — we went there when we wanted that Zen feeling, and then we’d go to the movies afterwards. Andy admired Grace — she took really good care of herself, didn’t do drugs and was such a hard worker. Does she seem wild? Andy felt really safe around her.”
“Anita was gorgeous and loyal and a real NYC artist — now an endangered species,” Powell says of Anita Sarko, the Mudd Club DJ pictured here. “We received her RSVP to attend the pre-opening event of ‘The Ride’ in Portland two days before she died. A devastating loss for us all. There is another photo of her in the ‘Beulah Land’ installation.”
“I took this at Mr. Chow’s original restaurant before Tina took Andy and I to her apartment next door to see her new Balenciaga pieces,” Powell says of Tina Chow, pictured here. “She was just an otherworldly, beautiful creature; she had a natural serenity about her and whatever she wore looked incredible. After Andy died, I ran into her and we exchanged contact info, but a few months later I heard she was ill. Back then, whenever one heard that someone had AIDS, one hoped they would get better. I sent her a ‘Get well’ note. Sadly, I heard she passed away shortly afterwards.”
“This was a promotional shoot for Tama Janowitz’s book ‘A Cannibal in Manhattan.’ David LaChapelle did the photography. I called Gerard Basquiat to ask him if he wanted to play the cannibal, and he did. We had so much fun. Jean-Michel got mad at me when he found out.”