Polish filmmaker keeps memory of ‘iconic Edie’ alive after 50 years
In a Time magazine article in 1967, Andy Warhol, the famous pop artist, predicted the future as a time “when everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.”
The next year, he included a similar quote in an art show, saying, “In the future, everybody will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”
Kinga Syrek begs to differ.
The 26-year-old multimedia artist, who lives in Krakow, Poland, has produced an animated short film about Edie Sedgwick, who grew up in the Santa Ynez Valley, moved to New York City and became the iconic Edie — a symbol of the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll era of the 1960s.
Known as the “It” Girl of Andy Warhol’s notorious Factory in New York City, she died of a drug overdose in Santa Barbara in 1971 at the age of 28. She was briefly married to Michael Post of Santa Barbara.
Her unpretentious gravestone at Oak Hill Cemetery in the Santa Ynez Valley is a far cry from her heady hedonistic days when she was the toast of Manhattan, hobnobbing with celebrities in the entertainment, political and social world while starring in Warhol films.
Ms. Syrek’s film, “Too Late,” released last year, is a biographical essay
in animated silhouette, based on the life of artist, model and ‘Warhol superstar” Edie Sedgwick, who was born in 1943.
“The film is a tribute to Edie for the 50th anniversary of her death,” Ms. Syrek told the News-Press by phone from Krakow, where she is studying for her doctorate at the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts.
Utilizing recordings of Ms. Sedgwick’s voice, and with sound assistance by Robert Magouleff (who directed Ms. Sedgwick in her final film, “Ciao! Manhattan,” in 1971), “Too Late” is currently cleaning up awards and prize nominations around Europe and the U.S.
Ms. Syrek’s fascination with Edie actually began with interest in Mr. Warhol, whose art she discovered in her mother’s collection of books about famous artists
“My mother is an art teacher in primary schools,” said Ms. Syrek, the only child of Katarzyna (Katherine) and Maciej (Mike). “As a child, I was interested in Warhol’s art because of his paintings of Mickey Mouse and Coca Cola and Campbell Soup cans — pop art in general.
“Years later, when I was in high school, I discovered Edie. There was a picture of her and Andy coming out of a manhole cover in New York City. Later, I saw her being interviewed by Merv Griffin in 1965, and there was something magical about her.
“I did research on the Internet and ordered the books ‘Edie: An American Biography’ by Jean Stein, author, and George Plimpton, editor; and ‘Girl on Fire’ by David Weisman and Melissa Painter. I found out about her sad life and her addiction. She died so young. I felt sorry for her.”
In 2017, Ms. Syrek traveled more than 6,000 miles from Krakow to visit Edie’s childhood home in the Santa Ynez Valley, where she lived with her prominent family — her father, Francis Minturn Sedgwick, better known as Duke Sedgwick; her mother, Alice deForest Sedgwick; and her siblings: Spice, Bobby, Pamela, Minty, Jonathan, Kate and Susanna. Edie was second from the youngest.
“My guide at the ranch was Kate McCurdy, the director of the ranch,” Ms. Syrek recalled. “She surprised me by giving me a horseshoe, which could have been a horseshoe from Edie’s horse. I left flowers and a small ceramic bird at her grave.”
“I also bought a book entitled ‘The Green Eyed Stallion’ from the Glenn Corning Liquidator in Santa Barbara (1207 State St.), which belonged to Edie, and three of the illustrations were colored by her,” said Ms. Syrek.
Her second trip to the U.S. in 2019 with her parents included stops in New York City, Boston and Pittsburgh.
“This trip was organized to do research for my film ‘Too Late.’ I had access to the Andy Warhol’s Museum archive in Pittsburgh, where I had an opportunity to see Edie’s drawings, sketches, designs and other memorabilia.”
During her third trip in 2020 with her father, she met Ronald Bacsa who is working on the book with his photographs of Edie.
“He asked me to paint a watercolor portrait of Edie from his book and write a short essay,” said Ms. Syrek, who went to Art High School in Tarnow, Poland, where her major was advertising design
“I am working at the same school teaching multimedia design and working on a project for which I received a grant from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education in Poland.”
In her film “Too Late,” Ms. Syrek focuses on the relationship between Edie and “her abusive father who made her childhood difficult and cast a shadow on her adult life.”
The title refers to the fact that her father realized too late that he was not a good father.
“In the film, Edie is represented by a white silhouette, to symbolize purity and innocence, and her father by a black cowboy hat as a symbol of his abuse,” said Ms. Syrek. “The film also includes some scenes from the family ranch in Santa Ynez.”
Since its release in January 2021, ”Too Late” has won a number of short film awards. They vary from “Best Animated Film” at the GRAND OFF World Best Independent Film Awards in Warsaw to “Best Polish Film” at the EUROSHORTS Film Festival in Gdańsk, Poland and “Best Animated Film” at the Across the Globe Film Festival in New York.
“I jumped for joy when it was selected for an Academy Awards-qualifying Kraków Film Festival when it had its world premiere in 2021 and later, when it was selected for Raindance in London, where it had its U.K. premiere last November,” said Ms. Syrek.
“ ‘Pulp Fiction’ had its U.K. premiere at the Raindance. I am extremely honored to receive this recognition from leading film festivals. When I started working on it, I dared to dream that Robert Magouleff, who was Edie’s friend and a co-producer of Ciao! Manhattan would produce the soundtrack for my film!” said Ms. Syrek, who also runs a Facebook group called “Conversations with Edie Sedgwick” and an Instagram page @dearest_edie.
“Jonathan Sedgwick, her brother, and his wife are members of the group,” she said.
Alongside her other art, Ms. Syrek also models as Edie, bearing in dress and make-up, an uncanny likeness.
“I was doing research on Edie for my film at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. One day, when I was at the museum, a guy from L.A. who visited the museum went crazy about me. He said that I was Edie!” she said.
“He told me that he dresses up as Andy Warhol for special occasions like for Halloween and that he was very upset that he hadn’t brought his white wig with him. He really wanted me to come to L.A. for Halloween, so I could be his Edie. I felt like a celebrity, who met a crazy fan. He even didn’t want to let me go. It was such a surreal experience.”
When asked why, 50 years after her death, Edie Sedgwick continues to be famous, Ms. Syrek said, “She is almost like a mythological figure. She is an enigma. Edie had that unique quality and aura that surrounded her. She is timeless. She was incredibly talented. All of these aspects make her very special, plus her glare in her eyes and a smile that could have lit up the room. I really wish I could have met her in person.”