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Genius of 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.

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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. 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.


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