Andy Warhol: Biography and Works of the Amazing Artist

Never before have I encountered more intriguing works of art than those done byAndy Warhol. I have been curious about his life ever since I saw his work inMilwaukee. 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 ofinteresting events that shaped him into who he was. As an artist myself, Iwould like to get to know the background of his life. I may then be able toappreciate his styles and understand why and how his works were created. Hislife is as interesting as his artistic masterpieces. Andrew Warhola (hisoriginal name) was born one of three sons of Czech immigrants, somewhere inPennsylvania on either August 6, 1928 or on September 28, 1930 (the date on hisbirth 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. Muchof his young life has been kept secret. However, he did report being very shyand depressed because he never felt comfortable with his homosexuality. Hischildhood life may have been full of the torture that children threw at him forbeing the different person he was. He was able to attend college. Aftergraduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in pictorial design from CarnegieInstitute 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. In1960, Warhol finally began to paint in earnest and to view art seriously as acareer. 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 comicstrip that was placed in the window of Lord ; Taylor’s department store. Hefollowed 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 tothe photographic silkscreen technique, which is a process of applying the sameimage over and over again without changing the original. In 1963, he beganturning film into his next aesthetic. He was the recorder of the world aroundhim. Warhol saw this world as populated by hustlers of various sorts, motivatedlargely by money and the goods it would buy. Later that next year, he startedto experiment in underground film. In the late 70’s he began to use sex andnudity 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 celebritiesand keeping up with the world’s times. He tried to understand how the rest ofthe world saw things, but just never got there. Sadly, Warhol died of a heartfailure on March 9, 1987, still wearing his famous blond hair wig. Andy’sdiaries are not actual written records of his day to day accounts, but they areaudio recordings of his phone conversations to Pat Hackett every Monday throughFriday (from Wednesday, November 24, 1976 to Tuesday, February 17, 1987, justweeks before his death). Warhol originally intended these daily records to bedocumentation of his minor “business” expenses. He was just audited and feltthe need to be extra careful. “In a word it was a diary. But whatever itsbroader objective, its narrow one, to satisfy tax auditors, was always on mymind” (Warhol xvi). Later on, he felt the diaries were a great way to explainhis everyday occurrences for more than a decade of his life. This view of hislife from his eyes is probably the most balanced view ever given. He may havechanged 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, thereaders, already knew them. He just usually mentions the quick everyday typethings such as a cab ride to uptown New York. The first major influence on AndyWarhol’s life was the stepping stone of his artistic career, his enrollment inand completion of Carnegie Institute of Technology with a bachelor degree inpictorial design. After graduating he moved out to New York City, where hislife blossomed. He lived for a couple of years with Philip Pearlstein, who hehad met at school. Warhol, with his education centered around design, set outto begin his career on the right foot. He started doing drawings foradvertisements in a women’s shoe catalog. It may not have been much to bragabout, but it was at least something he could learn and gain from the experiencegiven to him. Andy may have acquired his use of media exploited images throughhis beginning attempts at commercialism. He knew what sold to society, whetherhe agreed with it or not. He continued on with simplified pop art and he madeit famous. He is the person most people think about when pop art is mentioned.

Through his advertising projects, he was conditioned to think only inglorification of people, products, and style. One of his popular works, thesilkscreen of the Campbell’s Soup Can, is an example of this. It is an imagethat everyone is familiar with, and it is so common that sometimes it isoverlooked. Many times, Andy took something simple and glorified it. This ishow he made his designing skills useful in promotion. “One would compare Warholto the pictorial hyper-realism of Norman Rockwell, and to the surrealism ofMarcel Duchamp, and the radicalism of Jasper Johns” (Sagan 1). A second majorinfluence in Andy Warhol’s life is his participation in the underground filmscene. It started in 1963, when he called himself “the recorder of societyaround him” (Moritz 590). He would find people for his movies in a club-typewarehouse called Max’s Kansas City. Every night, celebrities of art, fashion,music, and underground film-making crowds gathered in the back corners of Max’sto try their chance at working with Warhol. In 1968, he was nearly killed by awoman 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; suchfamous ones are “Eat,” “Haircut,” “Sleep,” “Kiss,” and “Empire.” He would makethem boring on purpose to possibly prove a point. Again it was glorifyingsomething thought of as being extremely pointless. In the late 70’s he began touse sex and nudity, featuring films concerning sexual bondage. He may have beensimply looking for a shock value content. Many artists work off shock value, ittakes only the true to admit it and still continue with it. The last and mostimportant influence on Warhol was his mother, Julia Warhola. When Andy firstarrived 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 arrivedin town and moved in with him. Her reason was to look after him. She wouldconstantly keep an eye out for a wife for Andy. Little did she know he wasinterested in the opposite sex for marriage. Andy appreciated his mother, andnever wanted to explain how she had an impact on him. Maybe it was the factthat she meant well, and tried her hardest to take care of him. She lived withhim on 89th Street and Lexington Avenue until 1971. By then, suffering fromsenility, she required constant care and Andy sent her back to Pittsburgh to becared for by his two brothers, John and Paul. After suffering a stroke, shedied in her nursing home in 1972. Andy did not except the fact too kindly. Hewould even go as far to say his mother was doing fine, when people would askabout her, even though she had already passed away. Andy stayed quiet and triedto hide himself from the rest of society. He would avoid emotional interactionas 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 intoan outspoken artist, now finished his life with feelings even worse than thebeginning of his life. After extensive research I found that Andy had much moreto his life than I had originally expected. He was involved in the classic rockband The Velvet Underground, with famous singer Lou Reed. He actually evendesigned a few of the album covers. Most people remember the self-entitledalbum with the picture of a banana on it. Directly to the left of the bananaread the words “peel me.” If one would peel it, it would reveal the pinkinsides of a banana. Truly a work of Andy, I must say. Another thing I foundwas that Andy was not only homosexual, but he was “omnisexual.” It was rumoredhe had no problem with sex with anyone or anything. Men, women, animals, youname it, it was probably thought of. And last of all I found he was unusuallykind and appreciative to others, especially the ones who worked for him. PatHackett, his editor, once said that she has never met a person who says “thankyou” as much as Andy does. Not once have I been more informed on a person’slife. In the beginning I thought I knew a lot about. This research on AndyWarhol definitely reinforced my positive view of him. It may have possiblyenhanced my appreciation for him as well. I enjoyed the honesty of the entirediary. Nothing was hidden from the reader and I felt as informed as a goodfriend of his would feel. His life is an interesting one and I believe morepeople should try to investigate other lives of the unusual. It expands yourown viewpoints to accept those of others. Many critics have differentviewpoints on Warhol’s autobiography. He was still appreciated by those whounderstood his ideas. “But he had to have had some sense of history, or hewouldn’t have left the diaries behind to try to explain everything to futuregenerations” (Plagens 1732). Some realize that the diaries are rather boring,but seem to see the true Andy come through in the entries. “Despite theirvirtuoso triviality, their naive snobbery and their incredible length, thediaries are not without a certain charm” (Amis 1732). Others saw the diaries asa simplistic record of events. “His diaries are more or less just records ofwho went where and did what with whom, that anybody else who’d been along couldhave kept” (Plagens 1732). It’s too bad he didn’t start the diaries earlier inhis life, such as the 60’s, “when it would have been more interesting to knowwhat 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 casualproofreading and editing” (Trebay 1732). The reason the editor didn’t fit up topar 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 ofloveless, sexless marriages, its gimlet-eyed view of other people’s success, andits rampant unclosetings” (Trebay 1732). I, myself, found the book veryentertaining 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 wasstill interesting and kept me reading.

Category: Biographies

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