At Andy Warhol’s memorial service on April 1, 1987, many mourners learned a lesser-known aspect of his life: Warhol was raised as a Byzantine Catholic and remained so throughout his life, the art historian John Richardson said in his eulogy at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.
“Those of you who knew him in circumstances that were the antithesis of spiritual may be surprised to learn that such a side existed,” Richardson said. “But exist it did, and it’s key to the artist’s psyche.”
Indeed, religious iconography — including crosses and depictions of Jesus and Mary — recur throughout Warhol’s body of work. And in his diaries, Warhol documented details of his trips to church and his trip to the Vatican in 1980, where he met Pope John Paul II.
But exhibitions on Warhol’s work have not examined the role that his faith played in both his life and art — until now. A new exhibit on view at the Brooklyn Museum, “Andy Warhol: Revelation,” aims to correct this historical oversight, by featuring more than 100 objects that show how Warhol’s relationship to religion served as both a muse and a methodology for his art, and a guiding force in his personal life.
Warhol, who was a gay, adapted — and, oftentimes, subverted — religious themes in his artwork, the exhibit argues, in part by questioning traditional depictions of women and mothers and by using male bodies as a way to explore queer desire. And through his portraits of celebrities and paintings of objects that shaped American consumerist culture in the 1960s — including Campbell’s soup cans and Coke bottles — Warhol “very presciently tapped into kind of an undercurrent of society that you could call worship,” said Carmen Hermo, associate curator at the Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, who organized the exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum with José Carlos Diaz, chief curator at the Andy Warhol Museum.
The exhibit debuted at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh in 2019, and then went to the Speed Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, last year before arriving at the Brooklyn Museum on Nov. 19, where it will be on view through next June.
Warhol’s mother, Julia Zavacky Warhola, a Slovakian immigrant, cultivated her son’s religious roots during his childhood in Pittsburgh in the 1930s, when she brought him to four church services every weekend, “Revelation” notes. She also encouraged her son’s budding creativity by purchasing him art supplies. As an adult, Warhol practiced his faith “on his terms,” which were less stringent than those of his mother, according to Diaz: “There’s not a lot of evidence of which churches or how often he went in the ’50s, but we know through his life he popped into church,” he said.
While Warhol’s religiosity may have grown inconsistent over his lifetime, his closeness with his mother endured. Julia lived with her son for nearly two decades in New York, from 1952 until 1971, when she moved back to Pittsburgh in poor health (she died the following year). During those years living together, Julia “was always hoping that he would meet the right girl,” Diaz said, adding that she instead met Warhol’s boyfriends. Still, “she certainly accepted Warhol as he was,” Diaz added, despite the Catholic Church’s enduring stance against homosexuality.
Warhol’s closeness with his mother — and the reverence for their religion that she encouraged in him — likely inspired his interest in depicting the bond between mothers and their children, according to the curators of “Revelation.” In the early 1980s, Warhol and photographer Christopher Makos captured images of breastfeeding models and their babies — seven of which are featured in the exhibit — for a project Warhol planned to call “Modern Madonnas,” inspired by religious depictions of the Virgin Mary holding the Christ child. Warhol eventually dropped the project, stating: “I just know this series is going to be a problem. It’s just too strange a thing, mothers and babies and breastfeeding” — a viewpoint the curators likely attribute to “the stigma around breastfeeding” that dominated at the time.
But Warhol relied on women as subjects throughout his career: “Revelation” features his 1964 silkscreen prints of Jackie Kennedy — veiled and in mourning at John F. Kennedy’s funeral — and, made approximately 14 years later, the actress Marilyn Monroe, who died of a drug overdose in 1962 and whose face Warhol obscured and rearranged using a black palette.
The works, Hermo said, depict “intense moments of real women’s pain, and kind of acknowledging the intensity of how American culture sort of consumes that and loves it.” In depicting Kennedy and Monroe, with whom J.F.K. allegedly had an affair, the works also call to mind “biblical juxtapositions of good women and not good women,” Hermo added.
Warhol was also drawn to male bodies as objects of inspiration, and he “often entangled his corporeal same-sex desires with Catholic imagery,” the exhibit notes. (The body — and Jesus’ body, specifically — is a recurring motif in the Catholic faith: The crucifix displays Jesus’ body nailed to the cross, and the Catholic church teaches transubstantiation, which holds that during Mass, the bread and wine served during Communion become the body and blood of Jesus.)
Those interests converged in “The Last Supper (Be a Somebody With a Body) (Detail),” an acrylic on linen work from the mid-1980s, featured in “Revelation,” that displays an outline of Jesus overlaying an outline of a chiseled man.
“That’s one of the works where we really see the twin impulses of queerness and Catholicism,” Hermo said.
In others, Warhol’s queerness takes precedence over his Catholicism: Two works featured in the exhibit are made entirely of semen on cotton, and a pair of drawings from the 1950s depict reclining nude men.
Warhol’s fascination with male bodies also included his own, featured in a 1969 photograph by Richard Avedon, taken the year after radical feminist Valerie Solanas shot him in an assassination attempt. Avedon’s image features Warhol’s hand over his abdomen, struck with scars.
Surviving Solanas’ assassination attempt deepened Warhol’s faith, Hermo said: “There are accounts of Warhol essentially becoming more God-fearing” in the aftermath, she said, pointing to his promise to God to attend church every week for the rest of his life, which he did until his 1987 death from complications following gallbladder surgery. (Warhol is now buried alongside his parents, in St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery in Pittsburgh.)
While Richardson, the art historian, said in his eulogy that faith was key to Warhol’s psyche, it may also be key to understanding Warhol’s enduring status as a cultural icon, according to Diaz: “Warhol was this lapsed Catholic who was making art for the masses, and what masses? It was really a secular audience that worshipped him in a whole new way.”
Art with heart: B.C. artists are saying thanks to frontline staff by offering them their works – CBC.ca
B.C. artists are using their skill and creativity to thank frontline workers by offering them original works through an online platform.
Artists can donate their work by making a submission on the Arthanks website, where each available piece is displayed in a photo. Frontline workers can then browse through the options and request a piece of art.
“We connect the two. We just say here’s the art, here’s the recipient, please get together socially distanced and hand it off,” said David MacLean, a North Vancouver-based artist who came up with the idea.
“When you give a piece of art it’s kind of original, it’s a little bit different, it’s a little more than just a one-off thank you,” he added.
MacLean says the concept of Arthanks was formed as he found himself painting more during the pandemic.
“I was getting madder and madder about the grief that frontline workers are taking … and thinking, ‘what have I done?’ Well, nothing. I’ve done little or nothing to help,” he told CBC’s The Early Edition on Thursday.
MacLean began giving his art to friends and family who were frontline workers — including nurse Robyn Whyte, who he met at a Deep Cove cafe.
Whyte said the two had chatted about their professions and MacLean offered her one of his works after noticing a wolf design on her sweater.
“It just happened … he was donating a piece of art that was related to wolves and I couldn’t say no, it’s a beautiful piece of art,” said Whyte.
MacLean had informally donated about 20 pieces of art when he reached out to Ginger Sedlarova, a friend in the local art scene, to help recruit volunteers and expand the initiative.
He said they have given away about 40 pieces of art since the initiative started last summer, and they are now looking for more artists to donate.
The works on display currently include paintings, vases and miscellaneous pottery.
He said all frontline workers are welcome to request a piece of art, including health-care workers, education workers and those in customer service-facing jobs such as grocery store clerks — “anyone who put themselves at risk to help us in this time of COVID,” according to the Arthanks website.
In receiving her gift, Whyte said she was reminded that people are thankful for the contributions of frontline workers.
“It’s great to be acknowledged. We’ve all been working very hard and it’s just going on so long…” she said. “I know that there’s people out there who are thankful and I really appreciate it.”
Restoration of Michelangelo’s Pieta statue in Florence reveals flaws in marble
The restoration of Michelangelo’s famed Pieta dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence has revealed that the single block of marble from which the masterpiece was sculpted was flawed, offering a likely reason for why it was abandoned before it was completed.
The statue, better known as the Bandini Pieta, represents the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene holding the body of Christ as he is taken down from the cross by a man, Nicodemus, whose face is the self-portrait of the Italian Renaissance artist.
“It’s a Pieta that has suffered and is very intimate… it is a really personal statue,” Beatrice Agostini, director of the restoration project, told Reuters.
The works of restoration confirmed that the 2,700 kg piece of marble had veins and numerous minute cracks, particularly on the base, which may have been the reason for Michelangelo’s decision to stop working on the sculpture before finishing it, a statement said.
The artist had initially planned to place the sculpture next to his tomb but only years after beginning to sculpt it, in the mid 1500s, a then 75-year old Michelangelo decided to abandon the masterpiece, giving it as a gift to a servant, who then sold it to a banker, Francesco Bandini.
Restorers did not find any sign of hammer blows, making it unlikely the widespread hypothesis that an unhappy Michelangelo tried to destroy the sculpture in a moment of frustration, the statement added.
The non-invasive restoration started in 2019 but was interrupted several times due to the COVID-19 epidemic. Deposits were removed from the sculpture’s surface, which was then cleaned, bringing it back to its original hue.
The project was commissioned and directed by the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore and was financed by U.S. non-profit organization Friends of Florence.
“The operation has restored to the world the beauty of one of Michelangelo’s most intense and troubled masterpieces,” a joint statement said.
Visitors have been able to witness all stages of the process as the statue was always on display, in an open laboratory, on a platform, behind a glass screen.
(Reporting by Matteo Berlenga in Florence, writing by Giulia Segreti in Rome, editing by Angus MacSwan)
Art Beat: Arts Council keeps its friends close – Coast Reporter
Until Feb. 6, the Sunshine Coast Arts Council is exhibiting works by its members in a variety of mediums.
The annual “Friends of the Gallery” show is hosted in the Doris Crowston Gallery of the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre, at 5714 Medusa Street, in Sechelt.
Now in its 20th year, the “Friends” event began as a way to encourage emerging artists. Today, individual artists from the community are invited to submit one piece of work they completed in the previous year to be shown in the group exhibition.
Artworks are also available for purchase.
Youth Urged to Float Beachcombers-Inspired Creations
The Sunshine Coast Writers and Editors Society describes itself as “a magnet for creative souls on the Coast.” To mark this year’s golden jubilee of The Beachcombers, the iconic CBC Television program, the society is seeking to attract young creative souls through an art and writing contest.
Various types of submissions are welcome, including short stories, creative nonfiction, poetry, scripts, cover artwork and colouring for the planned anthology and exhibit.
Written entries must contain at least one reference to The Beachcombers, the Coast or the beach. Allusions to jet boat manoeuvres and amicable ribbing at the lunch counter of Molly’s Reach are likely assets as well.
Details are online on the Society’s website at scwes.ca. Submissions must be received by midnight on June 1.
Family Literacy Week: Tales on Trails
The Province of British Columbia has proclaimed Jan. 24 to 31 as Family Literacy Week, marking the fifth successive year that Family Literacy Day (Jan. 27) has overflowed with a sevenfold increase in bookish intensity.
“Children’s literacy skills expand and grow much faster when families read, play and learn together,” said Jennifer Whiteside, B.C.’s Minister of Education. “Family Literacy Week is a great opportunity to focus on dynamic ways to support our youngest learners so they can develop the skills they need to succeed in their school years and beyond.”
Decoda Literacy Solutions, a province-wide literacy organization, is hosting a photo contest. Participants may take a photo using a “Let’s Be Active” theme and submit it by email to email@example.com or post it on social media using these hashtags: #LetsBeActive and #FLW2022. There will be a class prize and a prize for individuals.
To mark the occasion, the Gibsons and District Public Library has encouraged families to host “reading walks” in which families and individuals stroll through local parks, reading along to stories.
The Coast Reporter encourages all such literary ramblers to glance up from time to time, in order to avoid mid-chapter collisions incurred while covering one’s tracks.
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