Wednesday, September 28, 2016

My Youthful Infatuation with Andy Warhol: A Confession

I'm not really sure when I first began paying attention to Andy Warhol. I was in high school and taking art classes with the notion that someday I might be an artist. I knew about classical art and had read Irving Stone's Lust for Life about Vincent Van Gogh, and watched the movie Moulin Rouge about Toulouse-Lautrec, so I had some very romantic notions about living in Europe, hanging out with all these depraved people, and being an artist. Somewhere in all of this I managed to read an article about Andy Warhol and it changed everything.

For awhile I resisted the notion that Warhol was a real artist—certainly no Van Gogh or Lautrec! I thought of him more as a celebrity, but I still found myself searching art magazines in the school library for articles about him. There was always much talk of the wild, drug-fueled denizens of Warhol's The Factory with his “Superstars” including Viva, Ultra Violet, and Candy Darling. The more I read about Warhol, the more he fascinated me, but over and above everything else, there was one spectacular fact about him that blew my mind. He was from Pittsburgh!
Triple Elvis
Pittsburgh. I'd been to Pittsburgh, in fact, quite a few times. My parents had taken me there to the Carnegie Museum and the Flower Show at Phipps Conservatory. Andy Warhol was an artist—a well-known New York artist—who was from Pittsburgh. Nothing could have astonished me more. This was the era of his soup can, soda can, and sneakers paintings, as well as his Hollywood icons. A lot of people mocked his work and more than once I heard people say, “hell, anybody could paint one of those things.” Maybe they could but he was the one who did it.

I remember reading back then that he made a statement to the effect that Coke was a cultural equalizer because the President drank Coke, Liz Taylor drank Coke, and a bum on the corner could drink Coke. I loved thinking about that.
Race Riots, 1964
I also saw some of his more political works, including his 1964 Race Riots which he painted in the wake of the Birmingham riots. It was with that painting that he began painting what he called “the dark underside of the American Dream.” By the way, Race Riots sold for $62 million at Christie's last year. Anyway, because of Warhol, I saved my babysitting money and bought a subscription to ARTnews. A new world opened for me.
Warhol's Sports which was stolen from a California gallery and has ever been recovered
In the early 1980s I moved to Houston, Texas, and, while there, I got to see my first Warhol exhibition. I loved it. Not long after that Andy died following gall bladder surgery, and I was sad. His body was taken back to Pittsburgh and he is buried there.
David Bowie as Warhol in Basquiat
I never met him though I would have liked to. Recently I rewatched the movie Basquiat in which David Bowie played Warhol and he was as good a Warhol as Warhol. Andy was a strange, peculiar, and brilliant man. And he gave me an incredible gift. He taught me that even someone from Pennsylvania could be an artist and a star. I will love him forever for that.

Thanks for reading.

19 comments:

  1. Hi, Kathleen!

    Great post, dear friend! I am astonished as you were to learn that Andy Warhol was a Pittsburgh native. That tidbit does indeed remind us that it matters not where you come from but where you are now and where you are headed. You and I share many of the same memories about Warhol's impact on the art world and pop culture in the 60s when he used iconic American objects and celebrities as the subjects of his work. I am very happy to know that Andy was an inspiration to you. It is sad to realize that a few months from now Warhol will be dead and gone a full thirty years.

    Thank you for these memories of Andy Warhol, a great and influential artist who found much more than 15 minutes of fame.

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    1. He did indeed. Hard to believe it has been 30 years. Amazing.

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  2. I am always awed at artists - whatever the genre. I love the way that they present often very different realities. And get us thinking. Always a gift.
    Dali fascinated me as a young thing. And I still marvel at some of his work. Some of so many artist's work...

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    1. Yeah, Dali was another object of fascination along with his whole crowd. Certainly creators of change!!!

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    2. There's a Dali museum close to us in St. Pete and Mrs. Shady and I have visited it and taken the docent tour twice.

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  3. He was a fascinating character. Perfect for his times.

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    1. He certainly was. In many ways he created his times.

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  4. My wife has always been a huge fan of Warhol. I've attempted to get into his work but with little luck.

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    1. I suppose he is not for everyone but I certainly appreciate his work.

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  5. lovely confession .i wish you would have meet him at least once .he sounds great artist to me

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  6. Hi Kathleen - it took me years to appreciate art, music, film ... I guess I just never had someone to guide me, or the time to investigate. But now I really appreciate learning and reading lots of items - how fascinating ... and I looked up that film Basquiat ... to find it was based on the artist Basquiat - who died extremely young from a heroin overdose. Fascinating looking character ... one day I'll get to see the film ...

    Cheers Hilary

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    1. I really love the movie BASQUIAT. Some excellent performances by Gary Oldman, Dennis Hopper, Courtney Love, Benecio Del Toro and Jeffrey Wright.

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  7. He was an astounding man in so many ways, influencing society in his words and images. Frank Frazetta influenced me with his evocative, vibrant art. He was the first book cover artist to demand he keep ownership of his images for magazines and paperbacks and movie posters. And such was his appeal to his fans, the editors agreed -- wisely since it was his cover alone that made the first Conan book a million seller (a first for a paperback back then)

    He had a stroke, losing the fine control of the fingers to his right hand -- so he taught himself to paint with his left hand! Never let go. :-)

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    1. I'm a big admirer of Frazetta's work. I love the "heroic" quality of his figures.

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  8. Kathleen, The Andy Warhol Diaries is a book I read over and over for the social history, the gossip and his simple wisdom. Love, love that man.

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    1. Hi, Consuelo, nice to see you here. I ordered it from Amazon. Can't wait to read it.

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  9. Warhol did leave a unique legacy as well as a rich body of work. He definitely made his mark on the landscape of pop culture. The ages will tell the real story of his lasting legacy in a future likely far beyond my lifetime. In the meantime his work is to be enjoyed and pondered over.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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    1. Hi, Arlee, I absolutely agree. He really was a rebel in the most interesting ways.

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