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!
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.