Five Reasons Why Andy Warhol Is My Icon In Life
What would life be if Andy Warhol never existed? Probably bleaker and blander. The iconic artist’s impact, not just on art but the world itself, is no doubt vital to the era we live in now. The foundation for philosophical aesthetics wouldn’t have progressed, and maybe camp as a style and way of thinking wouldn’t exist! Andy inspired the world and other countless artists to be bold and beyond… including me.
Andy has always been an icon in my life when it comes to art, ambitions, and personality. The number of Warhol shirts I bought from different brands cannot be counted within my two hands. In my art outputs, there is always a sensibility drawn from the style of his creations. All it takes is one look at his artwork to know how energetic and colorful his life was—and that’s a life I aspire to reach! A life that exudes a dashing, unapologetic, and subtly bizarre aura.
Here are five reasons why Andy Warhol is my icon in life:
He came from a working-class and strived
With Andy’s superstardom, most people would have probably thought that he has always been rich or he came from a family of wealth. That’s not the case. Born as Andrew Warhola, the icon actually came from a family of Slovakian immigrants in the steel-producing city of Pittsburgh in 1928. His chances of making it in the art world were slim. Despite the case, Warhol’s construction worker father and embroiderer mother was supportive of the young artist’s talents.
The thing that inspires me about Andy’s case is his perseverance. Andy majored in pictorial design at the Carnegie Institute of Technology. He then went on to forge a successful career as a commercial artist, moving to New York and dropping the ‘a’ from his last name. He started designing ads for companies ranging from Tiffany & Co. to Mobilgas. From then on, history was made.
Most people view Andy’s Campbell’s Soup art with triteness, only appealing for shock value, stripped of a story. In reality, it is actually a representation of his humble beginnings. Andy was a guy whose form of soup growing up was salt and pepper with a bit of ketchup. As a kid, a can of Campbell’s soup was already a luxury.
He wasn’t afraid to be weird
Warhol’s success as an artist is often attributed to his ability to bring advertising motifs into the gallery world. Now, who would have thought that soda pop bottles, Brillo boxes, and soup cans would work as art during the 60s? Only people with a touch of weirdness could work that out! And Warhol certainly had it in him. That’s why people like me to look up to him, as he was unafraid to think outside the box.
During the span of his chaotic (in a good way) career as an artist, Andy Warhol proved to be a chameleon in the scene. He was a man of shock value, spontaneity, and bizarreness! During the 60s, Warhol had an exhibition named Death and Disaster. It famously featured Silver Car Crash, an imagery of automotive accidents in the early years of car culture.
It also included the Tunafish Disaster which is basically tainted fish cans of a kind that poisoned people who ate them. On the other hand, during his abstract period in the 70s, he created Oxidation Paintings. It was a series of paintings made with pee—the uric acid reacted with the copper which formed abstract images. Now, who could ever think of those pieces?
He explored so much
Unlike most artists of the 20th century (or history for that matter), Warhol worked in great depth. He did not simply dabble, he really took the time to create works in many different forms of media. In addition to being the main figure of the art movement Pop Art, Andy Warhol was also a filmmaker, a writer, a photographer, a TV soap opera producer, a celebrity actor and model, a magazine editor and publisher, a businessman of sorts, and so on… There was a different Warhol for everyone!
In June 1963, Andy Warhol bought a 16mm Bolex camera in Manhattan, and within a month he started making movies. Most may not know, but he made hundreds of movies during his career—mostly experimental and avant-garde. In 1969, Andy found and started the famous Interview Magazine, along with British journalist John Wilcock.
The magazine, nicknamed “The Crystal Ball of Pop,” featured interviews with celebrities, artists, musicians, and creative thinkers. Up until now, it is a staple in pop and celebrity culture. In 1983, he started a TV show named Andy Warhol’s TV, where he interviewed and basically hung out with artists and musicians too. All of these, regardless of different mediums, are still art. Now, talk about being a man of range!
He’s a gay icon
Another reason why Andy truly inspired me is that he was a gay icon. From his 1950s Boy Book drawings that lovingly depicted the sensuous male form to his poignant self-portraits in drag in the 1980s, Warhol openly expressed his queer identity in life and art. He did it unabashedly even when homosexuality was criminalized and suppressed in the United States. He helped increase the repertory of moves admissible in the art world, especially homoeroticism.
Warhol’s gender expression and sexuality were defining influences on his personal and professional lives. In the span of his career, he attached his name to different lovers, most of those he used as subjects for his artworks. In his short film Sleep, he recorded his lover, the poet John Giorno, sleeping naked.
Warhol’s expression of sexuality also exuded in his deep connection with the gay community of New York. In his artwork series Ladies and Gentlemen, Marsha P. Johnson was featured as a subject, multiple times. It attracted attention because of the artistic depictions of transgender people—particularly trans people of color—when during those times, the art world lacked such representation. In that notion, he was a trailblazer and champion for the community.
He was a people person
Needless to say, Warhol was also notorious for mingling with many celebrities. He has this ability to turn connections into artworks too. From Marilyn Monroe to Muhammad Ali, Andy Warhol’s portraits of the rich and famous are some of the most recognizable works of 20th-century American art. But the connection doesn’t only last in the artworks, as he really establishes friendships with these collaborators. In fact, he also helped other struggling artists to find their own space in the industry.
Andy helped Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Harring establish connections during the 80s, making them world-renowned too. When Basquiat was struggling financially and in terms of connection, Andy adopted and took care of him. Andy and Halston also transformed art, fashion, and Studio 54 along with different confidants and collaborators. These people navigated the 60s and 70s together, rising to the top of their fields.
It was a whole community—Andy was building a community in the art scene, using his connections, recruiting as many aspirants as he could. He always believed in potential. Without him, many of the artists we know today wouldn’t even exist in the mainstream—including bands like The Velvet Underground!
Undoubtedly, in one way or another, Andy Warhol has influenced our life. He will always remain one of the most important artists of the 20th century.
Xian Oquendo is a free-spirited writer and camera-person from Manila. His passion connects facets of poetry and visuals. Whether inside the cinema or in the groove of the city's streets, he is always in the pursuit of the transcendental.