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A compendium of queer people in the 19th and 20th centuries // Drawn and researched by Michele Rosenthal

Andy  Warhol

Andy Warhol 1928to –1987

Influential American pop artist, filmmaker, tastemaker, and cultural icon. He was born into a working-class family in Pittsburgh, and was already a bit of an outcast as a child. He studied art in college before moving to New York City in 1949, where he began his career as a successful commercial illustrator, known for a blotchy ink style of drawing. By the 1960s, Warhol had begun exhibiting his fine art as well. These were mostly repetitive silk screens depicting everyday images from American pop culture, such as Coca-Cola bottles, Elvis Presley, dollar bills, and most famously, Campbell’s Soup Cans and Marilyn Monroe. He treated the mundane as fine art and art as a business, which challenged the serious posturing of painting in the 1950s. Though his work was divisive, it also became immensely popular, and he soon found himself at the center 1960s New York culture. His studio, The Factory, was a gathering place for the city’s artists, celebrities, and misfits, many of whom were queer. As Warhol moved toward experimental film, this posse became his cast, with Warhol referring to them as his “Superstars.” This bohemian era came to an end in 1968, when Valerie Solanas, a radical feminist writer and fringe member of The Factory, shot Warhol in his studio. He was seriously wounded, but survived the event. In the 70s and 80s, Warhol focused more on the business of commissioned celebrity portraits, once again shifting with the times. In addition to paintings and films, Warhol also founded Interview Magazine, managed The Velvet Underground, and even hosted a short-lived TV show. Soft-spoken and unapologetically strange, he was not only open about his homosexuality at a time when his colleagues were closeted, but he had an effeminate self-presentation that made it impossible to ignore, and much of his worked dealt directly with camp and other aspects of queer culture. He knew everyone who was worth knowing, and collaborated with countless artists and personalities such as Edie Sedgwick, Nico, Candy Darling, Holly Woodlawn, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Keith Haring. His work can still be seen everywhere, and it’s safe to say that his fame and influence have lasted well beyond his predicted “15 minutes.”

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