American visual artist Andy Warhol brought the pop-art style to popularity in the ‘60s. You may be familiar with his work of Marilyn Monroe, his banana album art for The Velvet Underground and Nico, and the Campbell Soup prints.
In 1966, the iconic American pop artist Andy Warhol told the underground New York newspaper, The East Village, that if they wanted to know about him, all they had to do was “just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it”. His claim can be tried and tested with the best-selling book Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again, but here are some things you can’t find in a painting.
He wasn’t from New York
Andy Warhol is often regarded as a symbolic icon of New York and the buzzing culture of the ’60s and ‘70s. However, he is European. As the son of Slovakian immigrants, he was born in Pittsburgh and was initially named Andrew Warhola. After moving to New York, he dropped the “a” in Warhola to make it sound more “American.” Since 1994, the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh has featured his art, films, photographs, and even personal items such as wigs and perfume collections.
The 58-year-old virgin
This may come as a surprise, considering much of his work was highly sexual in content, but Warhol claims to have remained a virgin until he was 58. Many people didn’t believe this as he was a person who had a very overtly-sexual personality and interest in all things erotic, even having made a film in 1964 titled Blow Job. Nonetheless, Warhol claimed to have never had sex until almost 60.
Though Warhol was never married and, by most reports, never even had a relationship that wasn't “brief” or “abstract,” one thing held his affection. The wife in question wasn’t a human (he was openly gay); it was a tape recorder. He is reported to have carried it everywhere for years and referred to it as his “wife.” He stated that “To me, good talkers are beautiful because good talk is what I love. The word itself shows why I like Talkers better than Beauties, why I tape more than I film. It’s not “talkies.” Talkers are doing something. Beauties are being something. Which isn’t necessarily bad, just that I don’t know what it is they’re being.”
Warhol was the victim of attempted murder
Valerie Solanas was a radical feminist, queer theorist, and author of SCUM Manifesto. She had a deeply troubled past as a victim of sexual abuse from both her father and grandfather. Solanas made her way into Warhol’s inner circle in the mid-‘60s as she sought a producer for her play Up Your Ass and was looking for him to promote SCUM. Warhol loathed the script and misplaced it, instead casting Valerie in his 1967 erotic film I, A Man. In 1968, Valerie made her way into his factory and shot him three times the close range. That evening, she confessed to the police and claimed that she felt Warhol had “too much control over [her] life.”
His influence on Drag Culture
In the 1960s, when drag queens were still very much on the periphery, Warhol began to think about them in new ways. Drag queens were frequent visitors to his Factory, and they became an integral part of his art machine. They were no longer seen as freaks but incorporated into the artistic movement brewing at the Factory. Warhol posed in drag several times in photographs. Warhol brought drag queens from the outskirts into the center of the newly burgeoning art world.
He was a devout Catholic his whole life
Warhol’s name is synonymous with the glamour and decadence of New York- club scenes, sex, and pop culture. But Andy had a secret that he kept for himself. He prayed daily as a devout Catholic. He was a member of the Byzantine Church and frequently attended mass. One of the greatest moments of his life was when he was able to meet Pope John Paul II.
In the late ’70s, Warhol began exploring abstraction in his art in a significant way. He tried several unusual mediums and techniques during this period, but none was more experimental than his “Oxidations” series. For these works, Warhol would slather canvases with iridescent copper paint. To add color and texture, Warhol invites his friends to pee on the canvas. Differences in diet and fluid intake created variations in color and texture.
According to many of his friends, Warhol was a massive hoarder. He had a lifelong obsessive habit of collecting boxes upon boxes of random objects. Warhol kept boxes of his receipts, letters, and other papers—a new package of documents each month. But the boxes quickly ballooned into something wilder and less practical. By his death, Warhol had amassed 641 boxes labeled “Andy’s Stuff.” They contained hundreds of cookie jars, pornographic novels, crucifixes, Navajo blankets, the airplane above menus, and much, much, much more.
Andy was known by friends and companions to be somewhat inconsistent. Those who knew him said that he could be any number of “different Andys ” depending on the moment and the mood. Andy’s fluidity was so pervasive that his close friends and collaborators gave him his sort of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” character, a combination of Dracula and Cinderella, hence his nickname “Drella.”
He was the manager for The Velvet Underground
The pop artist was considered by many to be a Jack-of-all-trades, with his knack for arts of all kinds, from film to sculpting, painting, and even music. You may be familiar with the iconic album cover for The Velvet Underground & Nico, featuring a yellow pop-art banana. Warhol produced the album and the art. He managed and made for the seminal rock band that had used 53 album covers in his time, including the Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin.
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