The artist I chose to write about is Andy Warhol. Warhol was born in Pennsylvania in 1928. “Andy Warhol was emblematic of the rich artistic culture in New York City where he lived most of his life. He was transformed by the life in the Big Apple. His parents had two other sons who were raised in the Catholic Byzantine faith. In fact, he’s buried in the Saint John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery in Bethel Park, Pennsylvaniaв a homage to his heritage and his religion” (Scarisbrick).
Warhol was the third son born to his parents who migrated to the United States from Czechoslovakia. At an early age, Warhol showed an interest in the arts by drawing and coloring. After graduating high school, he enrolled into Carnegie Institute of Technology. He was later employed as a commercial illustrator and worked for some of the largest companies in New York which made his work recognizable. He did not know at the time what an impact he would make on the world as a “Pop artist.”
I have read some of Warhol’s history prior to taking this course. I was intrigued by his art style and the enormous amount of money his paintings brought. I am not really fond of his paintings, but the interpretations of the paintings are interesting. He was one person who thought outside the box. Just from reading articles about Warhol, I got the idea that he was either sympathetic toward gender identification persons or he treated all persons the same. He lived an eccentric life style, but loved being surrounded by famous people and he adored Marilyn Monroe.
The painting, Gold Marilyn Monroe, was released in 1962 shortly after her death. Warhol used different color schemes which were also printed in a series of strips called a diptych. Warhol actually did not paint the picture, but used a photograph which he purchased to place on a silkscreen which was painted gold. According to Dr. Steven Zucker, an art critic, commented on Warhol’s Gold Marilyn Monroe, “Warhol painted Marilyn’s face as a mask, not revealing who she really was” (Zucker). At close inspection to analyze the print, the bold colors are extremely vivid and cannot be avoided. Warhol painted Monroe’s face over a black background which leaves the viewer thinking that the black may represent death and the pink color on her face brought her back to life. Her golden hair may represent an angelic being. The turquoise colors used are very bright and eye catching and could be seen as a vibrant life. The placement of Monroe’s head is centered on the canvas giving the impression that she was the center of attention. The intent of this composition was to immortalize the great actress after her death. The sixties was a particular time in history when instability was prevalent to the people of the United States. This turmoil affected politics, music, society and the arts. The Vietnam War was raging and many people thought it was erroneous to send our soldiers to engage in the feud which caused many protest marches against the war. John Kennedy, the first Catholic to be elected president of the United States was assassinated in 1963.
Not only was Kennedy assassinated, his brother, Robert was also assassinated during this era in 1968. The civil rights movement was in full swing bringing about more tension between the black people and white people. But the accomplishment of blacks gaining the right to vote came into being along with civil rights being granted to the black citizens of the US. Again, another leader of reform, Martin Luther King was assassinated in the 60s. It was a dramatic time period in the making of America with all the killings and turmoil taking place. “Female activists demanded more rights for women, whose role in society began to change. The birth control pill and other contraceptives were introduced, making it possible for women to plan their careers and have babies when they wanted them” (English on line). Social change was also reflected in the music of the decade. In the 1960s America experienced the new style of music of rock and roll. This music brought new artists to the arena and the birth of a new music area was founded. Along side of the change in music came the introduction of a new kind of art, pop art. This was entirely a different kind of expression and Andy Warhol became famous during this time with his creations of a new art. With all the unsettledness whirling around, Warhol introduced his new found art. The Gold Marilyn Monroe painting stirred people to voice an opinion. “The background is reminiscent of Byzantine religious icons that are the central focus in Orthodox faiths to this day. Only the instead of a god, we are looking at an image (that becomes a bit garish upon closer inspection) of a woman that rose to fame and died in horrible tragedy.
Warhol subtly comments on our society, and its glorification of celebrities to the level of the divine. Here again the Pop artist uses common objects and images to make very pointed insights into values and surroundings of his contemporaries” (Burke thearthistory.org). “The main point that Warhol wanted observers of Gold Marilyn Monroe painting was that she was beautiful and a sex symbol to society. He managed to achieve this brilliant theme by ingeniously using a combination of colors and lines to create a picture the glues an observer at a glance” (Smart History.org). Warhol met his objective of presenting his portrayal of Monroe as somewhat seductive, but overall it is appealing to the eye with the vivid colors.