“I just paint things I always thought were beautiful, things you use every day and never think about I just do it because I like it. (Beckris 110) I just do it because I like it is Andy’s philosophy on life. Andy might just be the most interesting and and at the same time the most confusing individual you will ever read about. Andy’s work is like none others. His art brought common day people together and showed the impact of contemporary society and the idea of mass media on values.
Andy’s father Ondrej Wharhola is best described as a bald, burly man with a bulging belly and massive upper arms, pudgy nose and bristling sideburns. Ondrej was born in 1889 in Minkova. (Bekris, 6) He was married and living with Julia Warhola, mother of Andy, for three years in Mikova. In order to avoid being drafted into the Balkan conflict in 1912 he immigrated to Pittsburgh without her at the age of seventeen to work in a coal field in the industrial district of Philadelphia. (Bekris, 7)
Julia Warhola was born in a small village in the Capathian mountains outside of Czechoslovakia. Julia was the oldest and prettiest of her fifteen other siblings. She was also said to be the artistic one of the bunch. (Bekris, 7) In 1914 Julia gave birth to a baby girl. Because of the conditions due to the war the infant contracted influenza six months later and died. Julia’s mother was so depressed about the news of the infants death that she died one month later. (Bekris, 8-9) Julia was now reliable for her only two surviving sisters of ages six and nine. For the next four years Julia fled from the soldiers, hiding in woods and barns. She was supposed to be receiving money from Ondrej but because she was always on the run she never saw the money. From 1918-1921 she raised 160 dollars to go to the united states to find Ondrej. (Bekris, 9)
Andy Warhol was born on September 28, 1930 in Forest City, Pennsylvania. Or so we think. This is what the original birth certificate read but Andy wanted people to believe he was born in Mc Keesport, or even Hawaii. He also stays true to believe the certificate is a forgery. Most books and other reportable sources confirm that he was indeed born in 1930 but the dates do range from 1925-1931 (Bekris, 10). Andy was raised in a coal mining town in Philadelphia. It was a dark musty town were the sky stayed black. The town was overrun with poverty and crime. (Bekris, 10) Being raised in an environment as such would greatly affect a person’s personality in their later years. This might explain Andy’s later fascination with death related topics. In 1930 Andy’s father got a steady job laying roads and moving houses. This was a high paying job at the time because of the mass rate of growth in the cities. Ondrej saved his money and one-year later moved his family into a larger house on Beelan Street. Shortly after moving into the house Ondrej lost his job and was forced to move into a two-bedroom apartment. The rent was six dollars a week and Andy’s father had to work odd jobs to just barley pay the rent. It was not just Andy and his parents. Andy had two other brothers, one older and one younger. All three of the children were said to be afraid of their father. “Dad didn’t like us to start commotion because he was so exhausted and he would get emotionally upset. Usually all he had to do was look at you.” (Beckris 12)
Andy always had a problem with grammar school. He was not a social child and preferred to keep to himself. As most children do, they saw this in Andy and picked on him frequently. (Bekris, 18) Andy’s brother Paul stated, “At age four Andy cried a lot at school and one day a little black girl slapped him” (Beckris 15) He was very traumatized by this incident and asked his mother if she could keep him home from school. As the loving mother she was, she took Andy out of school and kept him home for two years. Over this time he became very close to his mother. When it was time for him to return to school he threw a temper tantrum. It took his mother, brother and neighbor to drag Andy back to school. Because of this incident he developed a nervous tick. (Rateliff, 11) Fortunately, Ondrej got his old job back and earned enough money to move back into a larger house in Oak Land. This town was much more suitable for raising a child and had better school systems. In this town Andy made new friends, which were particularly girls. This would later explain Andy’s homosexual tendencies. Margie Girman was one of his closest friends. She was said to be bright and stimulating which would encourage Andy to do better in school. Andy began to have a fascination with the cinema. Every weekend he and Margie would go to the movies. At the end of every show the ushers would hand out autographed photos of the actors and actresses. Andy would end up using these same images in his prints. Andy started to distance himself from boys and became closer to girls and his new found talent of drawing. Andy’s brother John said, ” When Andy was out in the field by the time you hit the ball he wasn’t there.” (Bekris, 16-17) He would go back to the house and draw in his notebook. Andy soon got the reputation as a “mamas boy”. If he was not with his girlfriends or sketching in his notebook, he was out with his mother helping her pick out hats and skirts. At age six Andy had entered the second grade. His teacher Catharine Meta said that Andy would walk through the halls with his head down wishing he was invisible. This made him a prime suspect for abuse by his fellow classmates.
From early on in Andy’s life he had been a sickly child. Because Andy was known to be a mamma’s boy and a crybaby his parents paid little to no attention to him when he whined about being hurt or sick. At age two Andy’s eyes swelled shut due to an infection and his mother had to use daily doses of boric acid to get rid of the mucus. At age four he was playing on the train tracks and broke his arm. The wound went unnoticed for several weeks until someone saw an unnatural bend to his arm. The bone had to be re-broken and set. At age six Andy contracted scarlet fever, which would later effect his overall development. His illness went unnoticed until Andy began not being able to control his limbs or speech. He had trouble holding his own arm and completing a sentence. This part of Andy’s life greatly contributed to his mistrust in people and his art. (Bekris, 19)
Andy’s art talent in high school was amazing. He drew everything he laid his eyes on. Even though he had such a great talent he was still singled out. Lee Karageores says “But sorely he was sort of left out. He wasn’t even in the art club because his talent was so superior.” Andy attended Scheley High School. During his senior year he applied to both the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Institute of Technology. Andy was accepted to both but chose to attend Carnegie Tech. Carnegie Tec’s academic standards were high and the courses extremely competitive. (Rateliff, 12) This was because his graduating class consisted of about only one hundred students. The school motto best describes its standards “Laborare est Orare” to labor is to pray is what it means in Latin. Andy’s freshman courses consisted of drawing, pictorial and decorative design, color, hygiene, and thought and expression. Andy had a great struggle with all of his courses but thought and expression was his worst. This was probably so because of Andy’s phobia of expressing himself orally. Andy was a man of few words; also another reason was because he had such poor grammar. Fortunately, Andy made two friends in this class who tried to get Andy a passing grade. Even with their combined effort he failed out of the course. At the time Andy was attending school, there was an economic depression, and the war was ending. (Bekris, 37) Because of the war veterans that were returning, jobs became scarce and Carnegie Tech was forced to drop students in order to make room. Andy was one of them. Because Andy showed such passion to his work his teachers fought to have Andy attend summer school and go for re-admissions the following year. (Feldman, 9) While Andy was attending summer school he got a job delivering fruit with his brother. As he worked he carried a sketchbook drawing whatever appealed to him. An eyewitness recalled “He drew what he saw, you could see the nude bodies of the women through their battered clothes, babies hanging on mothers necks. He really got the essence of this depressing side of life.” When Andy returned for readmitions he presented the sketchbook. They allowed Andy back in. Along with being able to come back to Carnegie Tech, his sketches were put on display and Andy received forty dollars. This was the first time Andy had ever received money for his work. At the time of Andy’s graduation he was skeptical about leaving his mother. He was debating whether to pursue his talent or become a schoolteacher and live with his mother. Fortunate for us he became an artist and created some of the world’s most interesting paintings.
Andy decided he wanted to move to New York City. His mother was very disappointed. She told Andy that he would end up in a gutter, penniless. A good friend of Andy’s, Philip Pearlstine convinced Andy to move to Manhattan with him. (Bekris, 50) He did and ended up spending eight years there. In June 1949, Andy and Pearlstine moved into a small apartment on Saint Marks Street. (Bekris, 51) Later on Andy would move out of this apartment and get his own studio in an abandoned hook-and-ladder firehouse only a few blocks away from Pearlstiens. The only minor set back was that the floor was littered with hole and the ceiling leaked, sometimes destroying entire paintings. Over the next few years Andy would move around from rat hole to rat hole. Over this time Andy’s mother came to live with him and he also began to get noticed. Between moves Andy held many different jobs. In 1951 Andy got a job as a major assistant to illustrate a Complete Book of Etiquette by Amy Vanderbits. (Bekris, 53) For the next two to three years Andy did illustration work for magazines and store windows. He devoted all his time to work and was making a decent amount of money. He also got the reputation as a workaholic. Pearlstine said that Andy was “a workaholic who sat at a table and worked all day and often late at night. He would do several versions of each assignment, showing all art dealers loved him for that.” (Bekris, 53) These were the golden years for art designers and magazine publishers, which attracted some of the most desirable graphic designers. In 1963 Andy moved into a flat at 231 East 47th street. (Bekris, 141) This location would later be known as the “Factory”. Andy did most of his recognized art here. He was said to be like a machine. A quote from the artist. “The reason I’m painting this very way is because I want to be a machine.” (Cameo, 8) The Factory had a large freight elevator that took you to the loft. The doors opened up to a 140-sq./ft room with a couple of toilets in the back and a payphone buy the door. The Factory soon became the “in crowd hang out”. Its tripy lighting and tin foil walls attracted every type of person. The Factory was now a cultural Mecca, part film studio, and part Salvation Army for the struggling artists. The majority of the crowd was called the “amphetamine rapture group” but better known as the “mole people” because they lived in the underworld of the city and only came out at night. (Cameo, 8) Andy continued to make money and turning out electric chair prints as part of the death-and-disaster series.
As you the viewer can tell from a variety of Andy’s paintings, he had an erotic side to him. Andy has never come entirely out with the truth but some interesting facts have been found. Andy first discovered he had a homosexual taste when he was a student at Carnegie Tech. Andy also had an off and on relationship with a friend whom he met in the autumn of 1945. (Shanes, 11) Most of Andy’s Advertisements and window displays incorporated shoes. The majority of the time he was asked to redo them because they came across as being too sexual. He was also known to have a slight foot fetish. Boyfriends of Andy have admitted that Andy enjoyed licking their shoes while making love. He also published a quite graphic series called “Drawings for a boy book” (Shanes, 11) Although Andy never “came out” he was known to be a part of the “lavender” social world, which was an underground social world with gays and transvestites.
Andy wanted to bring avant grade artists and the public together. The common people are the ones intended for Andy’s art. In 1958 Andy made the transition to this idea from commercial artist to “Fine Artist”. (Shanes, 15) This was after a similar artist’s movement of John Rauschenburg. After his work with I Miller Shoes in the 1960’s, which was a large shoe manufacturer, his subjects started to move to common day objects. In 1961 Andy started to play with the idea of mass production. (Cameo, 8) He chose common day items such as Campbell soup cans, money, Coca-Cola, and newspaper headlines. He also did work on famous people such as Marilyn Manroe and Jackie Onasis. In starting pop art Andy called upon everything he had learned from advertising. Also from TV where the dollar sign and the gun were predominate symbols, where the subliminal message was sexual desire without gratification, and were the immediate aim was to shock. Andy chose to paint a series of big black-and-white pictures of what artists were supposed to hate most. The look from the backs of cheep magazines. The simplest crummiest ads for jobs, TV, wigs, and canned food, Andy made into art.Andy’s transition is only best explained visually. In his early works with portraits such as “Ladies and Gentleman” 1917 (1) and “Truman Capote”1979 (2) they show how Andy uses vibrant colors to emphasize specific features. In his “Untitled” (Hernia) 1960-62 (3) painting it shows his work with common day ads and simplicity. This print almost looks like it came from a textbook. “Front and Back of Dollar bills” (4) experiments with the use of silk screen and mass production. This painting is quite striking because when you think about it money might just be the most mass-produced object in the world. Andy also had a tendency to paint unordinary things like his “cow” (5) painting. He stayed within his style of color but the cow is neither a famous portrait nor a mass-produced object. After the tragic suicide of Marilyn Monroe in 1962 Andy became somewhat obsessed with her beauty. (Bekris, 113) He would use pictures of her lips and produce them hundreds of times using bright sexy colors. He always focused on her most sexual features such as he hair, eyes, and lips.“Marilyn Monroe Lips” 1962 (6) and “Marilyn”.
Andy had another artistic style to him, it was one that came from his childhood. Being raised in poverty and being exposed to such horrific sights contributed to his next “Movement” of work. Andy was curious in the acts of God whether it is from Mother Nature to killings or atomic bombs. Andy would make reproductions of all these incidents. It wasn’t until Henry Geldchler shoed Andy a more productive direction. In June of 1962 Geldchler suggested that Andy start looking at the “dark side of American culture” in a more artistic way. (Bekris 126) Andy new he had to come up with a new idea that would shock his audience as much as the soup cans and dollar bills had. Andy began doing paintings such as “car crash” 1963 (7) and “electric chair” (8). These images were extremely powerful. You were not just looking at an image in the newsprint you were looking at an image that was twice as large as you were and repeated ten times. Also he always chose a color to tint these images in. The color gives a mysterious side to it, which makes you want to know the rest of the story. The “Death-and-disaster” series became recognized as some of his best works, but at the same time many of his supporters found the images unacceptable. None of his supporters wanted to hang a picture of a man mangled in his car over their fireplace. The prints did do extremely well but only over seas in Europe and Germany. Some other famous prints are, “Sixteen Jacques” 1964 “Lavender Disaster” 1963(9) and “Sucide”1963 (10). “Oxidation Painting” 1978 (11) is in the death-and-disaster series but has a different twist to it. It is two large sheets of copper that had been treated with patina. While wet they were urinated on showing the given effect. Along with his artistic style his physical appearance began to change. He began wearing a silver blond wig that fit on his head haphazardly. (Bekris, 99) He even went as far as to change his speech and mannerisms.
For the next several years Andy continued with his death and disaster series. He was now a world-renowned artist and had private shows throughout the world. In 1986, Andy flew to Milan for the opening of his last show. During the last two days in Milan Andy did not leave the hotel. “He was in much pain” recalled Daniel Morear. “He was in bed” which was quite unusual for Andy to be in bed let alone for two days. At the end of 1986 his gallstones had become so enlarged that they had become life threatening. Andy refused to go to a hospital because of his great fear of them. In the first week of February his illness stopped him dead in his tracks. For the first time in his life Andy abandoned his friends in the middle of a night out on the town to go home and spend the evening in his bed. A sonogram taken by Dr. Cox showed the gallbladder to be severely infected, inflamed, and filled with fluid. The next day Andy was scheduled to be admitted into New York Hospital. The operation was supposed to take place on Saturday and have Andy home by late Sunday. Saturday morning Andy locked all his valuables in his safe and headed to the hospital. He had also made it very clear that no one, not even his mother should know he was going to the hospital. When he was admitted they put him under the name of Bob Roberts. A report from the New York Times Magazine by M.A Farba and Lawrence Altman stated:
After fifteen hours of preparation, Warhol’s surgery was preformed between 8:45 am and 12:10 p.m. on Saturday February 21, 1987. There were no complications at the time – and none were found during the autopsy or by any of the doctors who had received the case. Warhol spent three hours in recovery after the surgery, and at 3:45pm was taken to his private room on the twelfth floor of Baker Pavilion. For comfort precaution and on the recommendation of Dr. Cox, his regular physician, Warhol was placed in the hands of a private duty nurse, rather than the normal complement of staff nurses. He was examined during the afternoon and early evening by the senior attending physicians, who noted nothing unusual. Alert and seemingly in good spirits, Warhol watched television and around 9:30 p.m. spoke to the house keeper at his east side home, a few blocks away.
Min Chou was the private nurse attending to Andy. It was not known whether she kept her post but it was clear that she did not record his vital signs and neglected to give him medicine.
At 10pm and at 4am on Sunday February 22, Min Chou, the private nurse who had been selected by the hospital from a registry, took Andy’s blood pressure and found it stable. She gave a progress report to the chief surgical resident by telephone at 11pm; presumably while the patient slept.
At 5:45am Ms. Chou noticed that Warhol had turned blue and his pulse had weakened. Unable to waken him she summoned the floor nurse who in the words of a colleague, “almost had a stroke” A cardiac arrest team began resuscitation efforts but according to hospital sources, had difficulty putting a tube in Warhol’s windpipe because rigor mortis had started to set in. At 6:31am the artist was pronounced dead.
The art world suffered a great lose with the death of Andy Warhol. His personal style will always move forward touching and changing people’s lives every day. Andy was a one of a kind and will never be recreated. To understand his art is a feeling many people over look. It is an every day reminder that we don’t take the time to look at what goes on around us. Now when I walk I wont just look down but all around me. At the trees, clouds, bricks under my feet, and the entire world moving around me.