As mentioned in my last post, I just returned from a trip back east to visit family and longtime friends. I grew up in Pittsburgh, and now that I”ve been away for so long, I’m always struck by the beauty of the city when I go back to visit. This year, I made it my mission to visit the Andy Warhol museum. I don’t know how I’ve loved Pop Art, grown up in Pittsburgh, gone to art school in Pittsburgh, and yet never visited this museum! I decided it was time, so my sister and I spent a lovely day touring all seven floors. It did not disappoint. Each floor covers a time period of his work – his film work was on one floor, the famous silkscreen portraits on another…
I also realized that despite all the references to Warhol’s work in today’s culture, I really didn’t know very much about him at all. Since the museum didn’t allow us to take photography anywhere except on the ground floor, here are a few of the tidbits I learned.
- He is not only Pittsburgh born and bred, he attended Carnegie Mellon University. This was particularly of interest to me because Carnegie Mellon has a prestigious art program, and was my dream school. I applied and was accepted, but unfortunately, I couldn’t afford it. I didn’t realize until my museum visit that this was Andy’s alma mater, but since the program is a tough one, I have to admire him for making it through and going on to become so successful!
- I read in his diaries (in the notes by his secretary, Pat Hackett) that Andy really loved his “weekday rut”. There is a stereotype out there that artists live wild, erratic lifestyles, and this may be true for some. However, in my own experience, and also in my observation of other artists I know, we need to have a routine and practice self-discipline if we want to maintain our creativity. Inspiration is usually something we have to actively pursue and work for. It was interesting to read that Andy stuck to his routine, despite being known for his intense social life with celebrities.
- But lest we all get the wrong idea, his secretary also mentioned that his Factory (which he later called his office) was always full of clutter. I related to this also, because I struggle with clutter. I need alot of images and stuff around me to refer to, but at the same time, if I let it get out of hand, I find myself becoming less creative. According to his diaries, alot of the items he kept went into his Time Capsules.
- Andy was associated with many celebrities, but I didn’t realize until my museum visit, and then reading some of his diaries, that he was so far ahead of his time. He published Interview magazine, and his vision for the magazine was to have it filled with celebrities, ideally, with celebrities interviewing other celebrities. His diaries are full of namedropping and his interactions with celebrities. Today, these things are a dime a dozen, but at the time, he was on the cutting edge of the pop culture influence. If he was alive today, I wonder if he would now be veering in the opposite direction, taking interest in the handcrafted, artisan movement. Our culture is now so oversaturated with celebrities, it is a relief to escape it.
And now, just a note about his diaries. I expected to be reading about his work. The truth is, the diaries are more a record of his social life and how much he spent on cab fares and such than they are about what he did in the studio. I found this very disappointing, and did not even make it through more than a few hundred out of the almost thousand pages. There are descriptions of parties with drugs and drinking, which celebrities were there and conversations they had, so if you enjoy reading about 1970’s New York partying, you may make it through this book. However, I wanted to read about his working methods, his thoughts and inspirations, and he only makes minimal references to his artwork.