I decided to create a category called VIPs to talk about some really cool, interesting, and influential people in the world. I love Andy Warhol’s art and I have three of his works hanging in my room, yet I know very little about him. Therefore, I will devote my first VIP profile to Andy Warhol, the man responsible for the famous Campbell’s Soup Cans painting (1962), or as I like to call him, the man behind the cans.
Self-Portrait, 1963-1964 (acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen)
Andy Warhol: the man famous for encapsulating American icons in his artistic expression from 1949 to 1987
Backstory and Success
Andy Warhol is famously known as the most influential American pop artist of the twentieth century. He was born as Andrew Warhola to parents Andrej and Julie Warhola on August 6, 1928 in Pittsburgh, PA, the youngest of three boys. From a young age he showed a great interest in films, drawing, and photography, and he grew up with a drive to become a commercial illustrator. Though his father died when he was only fourteen years old, he had recognized his son’s talent and potential, and he had saved money to pay for young Warhol’s college education. After high school, Warhol studied at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now called Carnegie Mellon University) from ’45-’49 and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Pictorial Design. Soon after, Warhol quickly moved to New York City in order to pursue his ideal career, and just as quickly he achieved success. Glamour magazine published his work for the first time in September of 1949. He went on to become “one of the most successful illustrators of the 1950’s” and he continued to grow increasingly famous throughout the span of his career.
Warhol’s illustrations are characterized by a fanciful and unique style. One drawing that appealed to me especially is called In the Bottom of My Garden (ca. 1956) shown below. I love everything about it: the shapeless bodies and peaceful expressions of the angels, the cursive script and how its nestled between the angels and the flower, and the big, red flower itself. He has a simple, but whimsical artistic hand, and I think it’s light-hearted and pretty.
He shifted from drawing to painting at the end of the ’50’s, and he created his first “Pop painting” in 1961. In the next year he launched himself into fame when he debuted his “Campbell’s Soup Can Series.” People loved his work, and celebrities hired him to create portraits of them. He was fascinated by Hollywood, so he often used movie stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Elizabeth Taylor as subjects in his works. In the ’60’s he also worked with others to “create hundreds of films,” the most famous being Empire (1964), The Chelsea Girls (1966), and the Screen Tests (1964-66) (The Andy Warhol Museum). I was delighted to find he had made a film with my name in the title and I cannot wait to watch it. The 1960’s kept Warhol busy; in 1964 he premiered his first sculpture exhibit of giant supermarket boxes such as Brillo Boxes and Heinz Boxes and used the occasion to show off his studio. The studio was painted silver and he liked to call it “The Factory.” It quickly became a celebrity hot spot, and, as a growing celeb, he began to appear in the media frequently (always wearing Ray Bans). Since he was so fascinated with Hollywood, I can imagine attaining stardom must have been extremely fulfilling. Not only did he possess creativity, but he also was a savvy businessman with an entrepreneurial spirit. His experience as a commercial illustrator in the advertising industry taught him to be attentive to consumer needs and culture, and he learned how to firmly develop his own “signature style” in order to brand himself. He was said to have a magnetic personality, and that he was willing to engage anyone and welcome them into his own “Warhol world.” I think I would have liked to be friends with him very much.
More about his artwork:
One extremely cool series created by Warhol in 1974 was called Time Capsules: he filled cardboard boxes with “the materials of his everyday life, including mail, photos, art, clothing, collectibles, etc.” Warhol constructed more 600 of these boxes and now they are considered “an archival goldmine of his life and times” (The Andy Warhol Museum).
Books he’s published include: Andy Warhol’s Index (Book), published in 1967, THE Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again) (1975), Exposures (1979), POPism (1980),and America (1985). An interesting detail about his books was that most of them were “based on transcribed conversations,” according to The Andy Warhol Museum. He produced TV shows, which were nationally aired, called Andy Warhol’s T.V. and Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes, and he appeared in one episode of The Love Boat. He was commissioned to draw celebrity portraits for the most famous, he helped rock bands produce music videos, and he signed with modeling agencies and appeared in ads and fashion shows.
Warhol created so many different forms of art and excelled at every creative outlet he experimented with. His extreme success is measurable by the sheer number of works he created as well as the fame those works earned him. Both his success as an artist and his impact on the world of American art and culture have been profound.
Some of my favorites:
Unidentified Model with Butterfly Screen Projections (1952)
Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962)
Double Elvis (1963)
My first experience with Andy Warhol occurred on a special sixteenth birthday trip to New York City. I had never been, but for some reason I was so infatuated with the thought of it; a city alive with business, art, culture…too many movies had instilled in me an overly idealized image of NYC (my favorite of which contains a romantic affair at the top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day). I still remember singing “Light My Candle” from RENT with my best friend, completely oblivious of it’s meaning, yet wishing we could be Rosario Dawson. The excitement of finally seeing the city I loved so much never drained. Even after realizing I may not need to live in NYC, I was thrilled at getting the chance to explore everything. When I walked into the center of Times Square and stood with my arms out, I felt energized by everything surrounding me: the screens all brightly lit and the rush of people crowded, moving in all directions around me, and tourists, like us, taking pictures. I felt happy. The city was so enriched with cool places and landmarks. My mom and I chose to take a double-decker tour bus around the city, and to get off at spots we wanted to explore. I remember getting off in Greenwich Village and having lunch in an artsy café which smelled of coffee. We liked all the shops we went into and we thought the Washington Square Park Arch was beautiful. I thought, “This would be a nice place to live, and I could walk to this café to read the paper, write a paper, or do something academic.” After awhile my mom and I waited at the bus stop, ready to move on, but it didn’t come. We were lost and flustered for a bit and ended up walking a long ways to find our hotel. But I remember enjoying every part of the trip, even getting lost. The city was amazing, we watched two wonderful Broadway plays (Wicked and Legally Blonde The Musical), we saw the Statue of Liberty (although from afar, since we missed the boat), and we went to the Museum of Modern Art. I think museums are fascinating and I enjoy looking at art, so this place was like heaven. I had to stop in front of each piece of art, and I took an embarrassing amount of photos. The artist that struck me the most was Andy Warhol. I thought Warhol’s art was beautiful; I was captivated by the colors and images he used. I loved the Double Elvis because I grew up listening to Elvis and watching his movies. The museum was amazing and the entire trip meant a lot to me. Now, after learning about Warhol’s backstory, I have an even greater appreciation for him as an artist. Here are the pictures I have hanging in my room, like this:
I love the quotes on each picture, and I think they give a little insight into Warhol’s thoughts. Today is a day to think like Warhol and to let the world fascinate you in any way possible. Get inspired, do something fun, be happy!
“Andy Warhol Biography.” (2013). Retrieved from http://www.warhol.org/collection/aboutandy/biography/
MoMA Learning. Retrieved from http://www.moma.org/collection/browse_results.php?criteria=O%3AAD%3AE%3A6246&page_number=3&template_id=6&sort_order=1