Understanding Andy

After earning her BFA from Rider University, Jacksonville native and current education director at Players by the Sea Barbara Colaciello moved to New York City and spent six years (1977-’83) at The Factory, Andy Warhol’s studio on Union Square. There, she worked as the advertising director of Warhol’s Interview Magazine ­— becoming close to the eccentric leading figure in the art movement called pop art.

After her Warhol years, Colaciello helped her brother, Bob Colaciello, who was the editor of Interview at the same time, research and conduct interviews for his book, “Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close-Up.”

To highlight the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville’s exhibit, “ReFocus: Art of the 1980s,” there may be no one more fitting than Colaciello. She gives a lecture this week about Warhol and his role in 1980s art — including his influence on Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. The exhibit features work by Alex Katz, Ed Paschke, Eric Fischl, Frank Stella and others.

Folio Weekly: You just got back from visiting the exhibition, “Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years,” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. How was it?

Barbara Colaciello: I enjoyed it. It was extremely crowded but great to see that people are out looking at art. I could tell that many people there did not really know a lot about Andy’s work — they know his name. So I feel the exhibit really provides a valuable educational component. The rooms are broken into major Andy themes and his work is surrounded by other artists’ pieces that were influenced by Warhol.

F.W.: I’ve read that you not only knew Andy Warhol, but that you worked for him at The Factory. Tell me about that.

B.C.: I met Andy when I was about 18 years old, through my brother, and knew him for about two years before I actually was hired as an advertising sales executive for his magazine Interview. I eventually became the advertising director and traveled with Andy and the editors promoting the magazine, his art and his books. Selling ad space for Andy’s magazine was a trip. Remember, Andy was connected to drugs, transvestites, art that not many people “got” — at least in the States — a partygoer, etc. So when you were trying to get upscale advertisers with luxury products, they would say, “In this rag, you want us to take an ad?” But we all kept plugging away and Andy Warhol’s Interview became the trendsetting magazine — a testament to the tenacity of the boss and staff.

F.W.: What did you think of Warhol as a person?

B.C.: It’s almost irrelevant. He was complicated, to say the least. He created opportunity for artists constantly, but one had to be careful of what they gave away.

F.W.: What do you think of Warhol’s art?

B.C.: It always spoke to me, [I] just related to it when I first became aware of what he was doing when I was about 16 years old. Young people today are still fascinated by him because he represents American culture, or [the] lack of.

F.W.: In your opinion, how did Warhol influence the art scene in the ’80s?

B.C.: Well, at that point, he was riding the wave. He reinvented himself by collaborating and influencing younger artists, like Basquiat and Keith Haring.

F.W.: One of the big themes regarding art from the 1980s is excessive consumption — both in and out of galleries. What are your memories of this and how do you feel about it now?

B.C.: In the world that I was in and surrounded by, consumption was prevalent, always. My first job out of college was at the Yves Saint Laurent Boutique up on Madison Avenue. He was the hottest designer at the time, and it blew my mind — the cost of designer clothes and the amount of money people had and could spend on his collections — sometimes paying a $6,000 bill in cash. I’m an artist for a nonprofit theater focused on teaching the acting process and emotional literacy. I think that says it all — my feelings about consumption.

F.W.: Tell me what you’re discussing at MOCA on Oct. 11 as part of the exhibit “ReFocus: Art of the 1980s.”

B.C.: I am still formulating what I’m going to do, but want to convey the experience of being in the office — The Factory — the people, the rhythms, the way it worked, how we accomplished what we accomplished. I am a performance artist, so I am not thinking of it as a “lecture” — more storytelling.

Kara Pound