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Andy Warhol

1930(?)-1987

 

Andy Warhol was born on September 28, 1930 (?),  in Forest City, Pennsylvania, the son of Czechoslovakian immigrants Andrei Warhola and Julia Zavacky Warhola.  Andy grew up in a depressing environment, a Philadelphia neighborhood plagued by poverty and crime.  Andy, the youngest of three sons, was a very shy child who was picked on by bullies at school.  He was afflicted by Sydenham's Chorea, a rare childhood disorder which is characterized by irregular movements, some varying degrees of psychical disturbance, stemming from acute rheumatic fever., so he spent much time in his mothers care, forming a bond with her that would last for many years to come.  Later on, Andy's parents were able to afford moving to a better place, so they settled in Oak Land.  Andy spent most of his time with his mother and girl friends,  going to the movies with best friend Margie Girman, with whom he collected autographed photos of stars which were handed out following screenings at the local theater; it was around that time that he developed a passion for drawing, and many of the photos he had collected were later used in the creation of his famous prints.

Andy also spent much time with his mother, and was known by many of the neighborhood kids as a "mamma's boy".  Of course, he was also picked on by kids at school, as it is with any shy withdrawn artistic child.  Although he showed incredible talent at school, he did not partake in any of its artistic clubs or activities because of the fact that he was too shy, and his abilities also superior to the other students'.  In his senior year of high-school, the nightmare soon to be over, Andy applied to both the University of Pittsburgh and the Carnegie Institute of Technology, which is now known as now Carnegie Melon University.  He was accepted to both but ultimately chose to attend Carnegie Tech.  Although he was a gifted artist, Andy did not do well at Carnegie Tech; he found it difficult to deal with the competitive attitudes of the school and its students, and also had a hard time fitting in, even though he was surrounded by others with whom he had much in common.  Andy failed his courses, but since his worked showed true talent, his teachers made him sign up for summer school in order to take remedial classes so he could apply for readmission in the fall..   He was later readmitted to Carnegie Tech based on an impressive collection of sketches he had done during the summer,  his drawings were put on display.  and he awarded the forty-dollar Leisser Prize for his work.

With graduation on the horizon, Andy had to decide whether he would he would remain close to his mother and take a teaching job, or move away.  After graduation, and much to his mother's chagrin, he decided to go to New York city, where he moved in with a friend and soon found work as a commercial illustrator, creating artwork for magazines such as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar.   Still, Andy wasn't yet a complete success, and he lived through some lean times, moving from one dilapidated apartment to the next.   Andy Warhol was rapidly gaining a solid reputation as a reliable artist with a good work ethic, no doubt based on the fact that he would often burn the midnight oil to present clients with multiple versions for each assignment.  Aside from magazine illustrations, he also designed store displays, and greeting cards.

Andy's mother missed her son, and decided to move to New York in order to be closer to him.  It was around that time that he changed his name from Warhola to Warhol, and began wearing his now trademark silver-haired wig.  Andy was soon ready to have his first major showing;  his  "15 Drawings Based on the Writings of Truman Capote", opened at the Hugo Gallery in New York, and the exhibit was a great success, and the struggling artist would not only earn more praise, but also gain substantial profits from selling his pieces.  A few years later, he was also part of an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, where he gained more respect from the critics.  Influenced by his work as a commercial illustrator, Andy began creating series of works based on common brand name items such as Campbell Soup Cans and Coke bottles.  Andy soon moved into a larger studio loft, which would later be known as "The Factory".  Soon thereafter, he created a series of silk-screen images based of the many photographs of pop culture icons he had collected as a teen.

The Factory attracted many of New York's artistic misfits and elite.  It seemed everyone from socialites,  models, filmmakers, and starlets such as Edie Sedgwick were becoming part of the scene.  It was then that Andy Warhol met many of his frequent collaborators such as art film director Paul Morrissey, who used The Factory as a studio.  It was during those years that Andy Warhol created his best work, dabbling in almost every medium that could be explored, including film.  Andy did not only create pop art based on commercial products and cultural icons, he also experimented with his darker side, in a series called "Death and Disaster".  These works did not appeal to his regular fans, and the experiment was soon shelved, only to be revisited during the 1980s.  The next thing he did following the "Death and Disaster"  series was a simple painting based on poppies.  The piece was a success, and Warhol had regained the admiration of his fans.  The factory wasn't just a studio and hangout, it was also an opportunity for up-and-comers and wannabes to try and find success through Andy's generous. was also where he helped up and coming artists find success.  Artists such as Valerie Solanas, a Factory groupie turned feminist radical and founder of SCUM (The Society for Cutting Up Men). 

Continued on the next page...

 

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