Sunday, May 1, 2016

MY CONVERSATION WITH ANDY WARHOL

It rained most of yesterday in Pittsburgh, but I’m actually quite okay with that.  Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of journaling and self-reflection and the overcast day combined with some hot coffee and my novel edits made for a pretty chill Saturday. Plus, I tend to find rain inspiring and calming, and so at some point in the afternoon when I took a break from editing, I put on a sweatshirt and a hat, and I got in my car to go spend some time with Andy Warhol.

Yes, most of you are probably aware that The Andy Warhol Museum is in the North Shore, and that it’s an amazing collection dedicated to Warhol’s life, but yesterday wasn’t about that. January was when I went there for the (?) time to take a guided tour and do a screen-printing workshop during residency, and April was when I went there with Heidi and Jason Miller to talk art and writing and sit in The Velvet Underground room and take an active part in the Warhol experience. But yesterday, yeah, yesterday was about walking to his grave and having a chat with the artist.
See, one of my favorite things to do in life is to walk in cemeteries. I find them both quiet and loud at the same time, and there’s some so relaxing and otherworldly about being in them that I just feel completely at peace. I wrote my poetry collection, Mourning Jewelry, while hanging out in graveyards, and I think they are a great place to open up a conversation about life, your beliefs, and most importantly, your dreams and frustrations.

Warhol has always been a huge influence on me, even before I majored in Art History as an undergraduate at Seton Hill University. There’s something about Warhol, whether it be his dedication to the experience of art, or his forward-thinking commercialism that revolutionized the industry, that proved that the man was a force to be reckoned with. He could draw, he could paint, he could sculpt, and most importantly, he see beyond the craft and focus on the concept while still delivering a message through his art that threw people off balance. I like that he was unique, that he wasn’t afraid to be himself, and to own himself and his brand. He wore outfits that made him happy, he took on projects that let him have fun, he partied with bands and artists that showed the same love of life that he did. Warhol, to me, represents someone who never lost that love of imagination and excitement for their dreams, and that’s something that I always want to have.


So I went to his grave and sat down in the rain while I listened to The Velvet Underground through my headphones. Andy’s grave is covered with flowers, and candles, and Campbell’s tomato soup cans, and it’s hard not to smile when you see it. I put my hand on his headstone and thanked him for being himself, for being in Pittsburgh and rocking our city, for wearing his crazy blonde hair like he was permanently in a wind storm, for creating a cloud room, for taking screen shots of some of my favorite artists so that I could see them as themselves rather than as the idealized versions the media portrayed them as. I thanked him for covering The Factory in silver, for experimenting with life in a way that made him come into himself, and then I thanked him for inspiring me, for teaching me that words and art have a lethal impact when used together. I thanked him for the tenacity he gave me, and for teaching me that sometimes you just have to show up with a portfolio full of work and run around the world showing it to people until they see you for who you are.
 
Warhol once said, “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself,” and he was right. If you want something, if you want to change how you feel, or be something different, that’s on you. The world isn’t going to hand you success or happiness or fame—it doesn’t work that way. If you want to do something that you’ve never done before, you need to take a chance and do something different. Go somewhere you’ve never gone before. Break the pattern that’s been holding you back. Be the person that you keep telling yourself that you want to be.

It’s that simple and it’s that difficult.
But hey, that’s what art is about, baby.

-Stephanie M. Wytovich