Andy Warhol

Never before have I encountered more intriguing works of art than those done by
Andy Warhol. I have been curious about his life ever since I saw his work in
Milwaukee. I saw his famous work of the Campbell’s Soup Can. By viewing this,
one can tell he is not your average artist. I’m sure his life is full of
interesting events that shaped him into who he was. As an artist myself, I
would like to get to know the background of his life. I may then be able to
appreciate his styles and understand why and how his works were created. His
life is as interesting as his artistic masterpieces. Andrew Warhola (his
original name) was born one of three sons of Czech immigrants, somewhere in
Pennsylvania on either August 6, 1928 or on September 28, 1930 (the date on his
birth certificate). His father died when Andy was at a very young age. Thus,
it forced Andy into a deep depression containing lack of self confidence. Much
of his young life has been kept secret. However, he did report being very shy
and depressed because he never felt comfortable with his homosexuality. His
childhood life may have been full of the torture that children threw at him for
being the different person he was. He was able to attend college. After
graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in pictorial design from Carnegie
Institute of Technology in 1949, he went to New York City with Philip Pearlstein,
who was a fellow student that later became a well-known realist painter. In
1960, Warhol finally began to paint in earnest and to view art seriously as a
career. He began his career with commercial drawings of women’s shoes. In 1961,
an early manifestation was his Dick Tracy, an enlarged version of the comic
strip that was placed in the window of Lord ; Taylor’s department store. He
followed in his own footsteps to keep going in the ever-so-famous “pop art”
track. Warhol’s use of images are so close to the images themselves, thanks to
the photographic silkscreen technique, which is a process of applying the same
image over and over again without changing the original. In 1963, he began
turning film into his next aesthetic. He was the recorder of the world around
him. Warhol saw this world as populated by hustlers of various sorts, motivated
largely by money and the goods it would buy. Later that next year, he started
to experiment in underground film. In the late 70’s he began to use sex and
nudity to gain attention in his films. Whether this was moral or not; it did,
however, work. The rest of his short life was spent visiting with celebrities
and keeping up with the world’s times. He tried to understand how the rest of
the world saw things, but just never got there. Sadly, Warhol died of a heart
failure on March 9, 1987, still wearing his famous blond hair wig. Andy’s
diaries are not actual written records of his day to day accounts, but they are
audio recordings of his phone conversations to Pat Hackett every Monday through
Friday (from Wednesday, November 24, 1976 to Tuesday, February 17, 1987, just
weeks before his death). Warhol originally intended these daily records to be
documentation of his minor “business” expenses. He was just audited and felt
the need to be extra careful. “In a word it was a diary. But whatever its
broader objective, its narrow one, to satisfy tax auditors, was always on my
mind” (Warhol xvi). Later on, he felt the diaries were a great way to explain
his everyday occurrences for more than a decade of his life. This view of his
life from his eyes is probably the most balanced view ever given. He may have
changed since the 60’s, but it is still the truest representation of Andy,
himself. He never expressed the key happenings of his life; it’s as if we, the
readers, already knew them. He just usually mentions the quick everyday type
things such as a cab ride to uptown New York. The first major influence on Andy
Warhol’s life was the stepping stone of his artistic career, his enrollment in
and completion of Carnegie Institute of Technology with a bachelor degree in
pictorial design. After graduating he moved out to New York City, where his
life blossomed. He lived for a couple of years with Philip Pearlstein, who he
had met at school. Warhol, with his education centered around design, set out
to begin his career on the right foot. He started doing drawings for
advertisements in a women’s shoe catalog. It may not have been much to brag
about, but it was at least something he could learn and gain from the experience
given to him. Andy may have acquired his use of media exploited images through
his beginning attempts at commercialism. He knew what sold to society, whether
he agreed with it or not. He continued on with simplified pop art and he made
it famous. He is the person most people think about when pop art is mentioned.

Through his advertising projects, he was conditioned to think only in
glorification of people, products, and style. One of his popular works, the
silkscreen of the Campbell’s Soup Can, is an example of this. It is an image
that everyone is familiar with, and it is so common that sometimes it is
overlooked. Many times, Andy took something simple and glorified it. This is
how he made his designing skills useful in promotion. “One would compare Warhol
to the pictorial hyper-realism of Norman Rockwell, and to the surrealism of
Marcel Duchamp, and the radicalism of Jasper Johns” (Sagan 1). A second major
influence in Andy Warhol’s life is his participation in the underground film
scene. It started in 1963, when he called himself “the recorder of society
around him” (Moritz 590). He would find people for his movies in a club-type
warehouse called Max’s Kansas City. Every night, celebrities of art, fashion,
music, and underground film-making crowds gathered in the back corners of Max’s
to try their chance at working with Warhol. In 1968, he was nearly killed by a
woman who was in one of his short films. She shot him on the side of his chest,
but fortunately he was not killed. He still continued to make films; such
famous ones are “Eat,” “Haircut,” “Sleep,” “Kiss,” and “Empire.” He would make
them boring on purpose to possibly prove a point. Again it was glorifying
something thought of as being extremely pointless. In the late 70’s he began to
use sex and nudity, featuring films concerning sexual bondage. He may have been
simply looking for a shock value content. Many artists work off shock value, it
takes only the true to admit it and still continue with it. The last and most
important influence on Warhol was his mother, Julia Warhola. When Andy first
arrived in New York, he would share apartments with friends and acquaintances.

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Eventually he could afford a place of his own. Then his mother suddenly arrived
in town and moved in with him. Her reason was to look after him. She would
constantly keep an eye out for a wife for Andy. Little did she know he was
interested in the opposite sex for marriage. Andy appreciated his mother, and
never wanted to explain how she had an impact on him. Maybe it was the fact
that she meant well, and tried her hardest to take care of him. She lived with
him on 89th Street and Lexington Avenue until 1971. By then, suffering from
senility, she required constant care and Andy sent her back to Pittsburgh to be
cared for by his two brothers, John and Paul. After suffering a stroke, she
died in her nursing home in 1972. Andy did not except the fact too kindly. He
would even go as far to say his mother was doing fine, when people would ask
about her, even though she had already passed away. Andy stayed quiet and tried
to hide himself from the rest of society. He would avoid emotional interaction
as much as he could. He did this so he could “shrink away from human touch”
(Moritz 591). A man who started his life shy and uncomfortable, blossomed into
an outspoken artist, now finished his life with feelings even worse than the
beginning of his life. After extensive research I found that Andy had much more
to his life than I had originally expected. He was involved in the classic rock
band The Velvet Underground, with famous singer Lou Reed. He actually even
designed a few of the album covers. Most people remember the self-entitled
album with the picture of a banana on it. Directly to the left of the banana
read the words “peel me.” If one would peel it, it would reveal the pink
insides of a banana. Truly a work of Andy, I must say. Another thing I found
was that Andy was not only homosexual, but he was “omnisexual.” It was rumored
he had no problem with sex with anyone or anything. Men, women, animals, you
name it, it was probably thought of. And last of all I found he was unusually
kind and appreciative to others, especially the ones who worked for him. Pat
Hackett, his editor, once said that she has never met a person who says “thank
you” as much as Andy does. Not once have I been more informed on a person’s
life. In the beginning I thought I knew a lot about. This research on Andy
Warhol definitely reinforced my positive view of him. It may have possibly
enhanced my appreciation for him as well. I enjoyed the honesty of the entire
diary. Nothing was hidden from the reader and I felt as informed as a good
friend of his would feel. His life is an interesting one and I believe more
people should try to investigate other lives of the unusual. It expands your
own viewpoints to accept those of others. Many critics have different
viewpoints on Warhol’s autobiography. He was still appreciated by those who
understood his ideas. “But he had to have had some sense of history, or he
wouldn’t have left the diaries behind to try to explain everything to future
generations” (Plagens 1732). Some realize that the diaries are rather boring,
but seem to see the true Andy come through in the entries. “Despite their
virtuoso triviality, their naive snobbery and their incredible length, the
diaries are not without a certain charm” (Amis 1732). Others saw the diaries as
a simplistic record of events. “His diaries are more or less just records of
who went where and did what with whom, that anybody else who’d been along could
have kept” (Plagens 1732). It’s too bad he didn’t start the diaries earlier in
his life, such as the 60’s, “when it would have been more interesting to know
what he did and whom he was with, instead of waiting until 1976 to begin”
(Plagens 1732). Some even complained of the editing job done by Pat Hackett.

“One problem with the diaries is their postmodern polish, such as the casual
proofreading and editing” (Trebay 1732). The reason the editor didn’t fit up to
par was the mere fact she wanted it to sound how Andy explained the day.

“…still the book is great social history with its lip-smacking tales of
loveless, sexless marriages, its gimlet-eyed view of other people’s success, and
its rampant unclosetings” (Trebay 1732). I, myself, found the book very
entertaining and a great nonchalant look at the famous and their everyday lives.

It may have been organized better and condensed a bit, but none-the-less it was
still interesting and kept me reading.


Category: Biographies

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