A vast canvas, painted in a combination of polymer paint, black light silkscreen ink and diamond dust, Warhol's Portrait of Linda Cossey with Camera is a work that, like the Reversal and Retrospective paintings he was making at the same time, fuses together several of the key themes and techniques of his work into one multifaceted portrait image.
The painting is a commissioned portrait of Linda Cossey whom Warhol had met in 1980 through the art dealer Edmund Gaultney. An attractive blonde film-maker, she chose to be painted by Warhol peeking out from behind her film-camera. Adopting a pose that would have been instantly familiar to Warhol, who also spent much of his life at this time peering through and hiding behind the lenses of his own cameras, Warhol appears to have taken this as the cue to extend his portrait of Cossey into something more than just the typical 'celebrity' portrait that he normally made.
Painted at a time when Warhol was reviewing his own career, reinventing and re-exploring it in his Reversals, Retrospectives and autobiography Popism, this portrait too, with its image of a person and a camera, seems to re-explore the endless mystery between the image, camera and eye that distinguishes so much of Warhol's art and, in particular, his self-portraits. For, in addition to a relatively straightforward portrait of Cossey taken from a Polaroid image that Warhol shot of her, Warhol has not only applied his own stardust-like glitter and glamour, in the form of Diamond Dust, but he has also sought to render a negative reversal-like image of her too through the use of a black-light silkscreen ink that shines out when viewed under ultra-violet light. Warhol had of course, used both the Diamond Dust and the black-light ink in earlier works, most particularly in his recent Shadow paintings and in his ultra-violet series of Gem paintings. In both these series of works these unusual materials bestowed on Warhol's painting a magical and ethereal quality wholly appropriate to the worlds of celebrity and celluloid.
In this way Warhol has created in this portrait a work that seems to reflect upon itself in much the same way that many of Warhol's self-portraits do. The double-look of the photographic image of Cossey seemingly simultaneously looking at herself and perhaps filming herself while looking is reiterated by the double nature of the resultant painting which can be viewed as wither a stardust-like celebrity portrait or, under UV, as a filmic negative reversal image. 'When a mirror looks into a mirror' as Warhol famously said, 'what is there to see?' (Andy Warhol quoted in D. Bourdon, Warhol, New York, 1989, p.13) This was a question that throughout his life Warhol's art repeatedly probed and one that, rarely, in the case of what evidently began as a 'celebrity' portrait, he has continued to pursue in this work.