Monday, November 30, 2009
Andy Warhol: Life and Legends
By Brian Nixon
Special to ASSIST News Service
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI (ANS) -- The quote on the card advertisement for the recent exhibition of Andy Warhol’s art at Kansas City’s Union Station states, “I’ve never met a person I couldn’t call a beauty.”
Twenty-two years after his death, people are still fascinated by the King of pop art. To add further intrigue, Warhol’s painting -200 One Dollar Bills- was sold at Sotheby’s last month for 43.7 million; high on the Warhol best seller list, but still short of the $71 million fetched for Green Car Crash in 2002 and $100 million for a 1963 canvas titled Eight Elvises.
For my part, I find myself every few years picking up a Warhol biography or watching a documentary. I guess my high school interest in his art has stayed with me. And yet again, before heading off to Kansas City for the Thanksgiving holiday, I watched Ric Burn’s excellent documentary on Warhol.
In the introduction of the documentary a summary of his peculiar life is highlighted: sickly child, religious upbringing, graphic artists working for Glamour Magazine, famous pop-artist, regular churchgoer, socialite, celibate-gay, businessman, dedicated son, aloof personality… the list goes on.
Though Warhol created a large variety of themes in his art throughout his life, his focus after the 1968 shooting turned towards portraits, nature, and his faith.
At the Kansas City exhibit, entitled, Andy Warhol Portfolios: Life and Legends, a section of each of these eras are highlighted: from legend images of Muhammad Ali; to nature painting of flowers, volcanoes, and extinct animals; to mythological images: Santa Clause, Mickey Mouse, Superman, and the like.
New to my eyes were images he created as a graphic artist- vases and flowers.
And what would a Warhol exhibit be without the familiar Campbell’s Soup Cans?
To many these images may seem odd and out of place. But the truth is, Andy had a deep, if misunderstood faith.
Warhol grew up- and continued to practice- his Byzantine Catholic Faith his whole life.
Many art scholars see a parallel between the religious icon images of Andy Warhol’s childhood Church with his pop art paintings: bold colors, repeated images, all with iconic stature.
What is fascinating is that Warhol’s life work is bookmarked by Christian images: one of Warhol’s first published paintings- Golden Hand With Creche 1957- shows a hand holding a manger scene, and his last images were of Jesus and the Last Supper.
According to John Richardson in the preface to the book, The Religious Art of Andy Warhol, “Although Andy was perceived—with some justice—as a passive observer who never imposed his beliefs on other people, he could on occasion be an effective proselytizer. To my certain knowledge, he was responsible for at least one conversion.”
Furthermore, “He took considerable pride in financing a nephew’s studies for the priesthood…and he regularly helped out at a shelter serving meals to the homeless and the hungry…”
Though many of us balk at the $43.7 million dollar price tag paid for the recent sale of his painting, I think many in the Christian world can appreciated his unique religious art and his continued faith in a faithless world.
True, Warhol surpassed his 15 minutes of fame (the phrase he coined), but maybe- just maybe- his fame may have caused some to rejoice in the One who deserves all honor- the Famous One, Jesus the Lord.
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This story is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of the ASSIST News Service or ASSIST Ministries.