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"I didn't shoot Andy Warhol"

I sat down hoping to write a clear straight article about Andy Warhol, guess it's not that easy. He was into everything. A painter, avant-garde filmmaker, printmaker, commercial Illustrator, record producer, author and a public figure. Andy has been the biggest networking American celebrity that I have come across. He is also one of the two reasons why I went to New York City to study film instead of France and Italy. The other reason was David Bowie. During the early 80's somewhere in late 1982 early 1983 Mangala introduced me to Andy Whorhol's work and his world. (Andy being a father figure of "Pop Art", and me being a fan of the genera).


Andy Warhol

Of course, everything had to be evolving from David Bowie. Whenever I was listening to music during that time of my life (Early 80s), I had to listen to at least four or five songs by Bowie. Since Bowie had worked with Lou Reed, I started to listen to Velvet Underground a lot. Through the VU (Velvet Underground) I started to discover the world of its creator Andy Warhol.

Andy became the band's manager in 1965 and suggested they feature the German-born singer Nico on several songs. Warhol helped the band to get a recording deal with MGM's Verve Records and Andy became the "producer" and gave the Velvet Underground the freedom for the sound they themselves created.

With Andy Warhol, the band became part of his multimedia road show, Exploding Plastic Inevitable for which they provided the music. They played shows for several months in New York City, and then travelled throughout the United States and Canada until May 1967. The show included 16 mm film projections and colours by Warhol.

The Factory was Andy Warhol's original New York City studio from 1962 to 1968, although his later studios were known as The Factory as well. The Factory was located on the fifth floor at 231 East 47th Street in midtown.

The building no longer exists. The Factory became a meeting place of artists and musicians such as Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Truman Capote, Mick Jagger (Of Rolling Stones), David Bowie, Salvador Dali, Jeremaih Newton and Allen Ginsburg. (David Bowie recorded a song called "Andy Warhol's Silver Screen" in his album Hunky Dory). Warhol designed the famous cover for The Velvet Underground & Nico, the band's debut album. The album cover consisted of a plastic yellow banana that the listener could actually peel off to reveal a flesh-hued version of the banana. I remember buying that album on a CD on 7th Street, St. Marc's Place from a used record store. Warhol also designed the album cover for the Rolling Stone's album "Sticky Fingers".

Andy Warhol was born Andrew Warhola on August 6, 1928, in a two-room shack-like apartment at 73 Orr Street in the working class neighbourhood of Soho in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Andrej Warhola and Julia Zavacky Warhola. Andrew attended Holmes Elementary School and Schenley High School, and entered Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh in 1945, where he studied with Balcomb Greene, Robert Lepper, Samuel Rosenberg, and others. He graduated in June 1949 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Pictorial Design.

Like many artists in the world at that time, Andy Warhole also wanted to move to New York City. One of my own reasons to go to New York City was because of Andy. When I first met Mangala in December 1982, he was working as the designer for my father's Buddhi Batiks. I used to meet Mangala every day, right after my studies at Maris Stella College in Negombo. Upon my arrival every afternoon around 3 pm, I would visit him and listen to some music of David Bowie, Lou Reed, and Roxy Music. (Mostly any new wave music, anything from Spandau Ballet, Kate Bush, Human League, to sex pistols and Billy Idol). Mangala would get many fashion magazines every month, from ID to Vogue and Interview. I loved the Interview and Mangala told me that it was a magazine started by Andy Warhol. The images were so amazing; there were more pictures than write-ups. I loved the look of it and started to get attracted to Andy's work. Then he showed me the pictures of his Campbell's soup can and also played me the song that David Bowie wrote for Andy Warhol.

I became a big fan of Warhol's work. During 1987, I was looking to get into a film school in Italy or France. Then Mangala told me that Bowie, Warhol and Woody Allen, all are living in NYC , so why wouldn't I go to New York City. That moment I thought to myself I will somehow meet all three of them and started to pursue my energy on going to New York City.

Glamour Magezine

Warhol moved to New York City to pursue a career as a commercial artist. His first work appeared in Glamour magazine in September 1949. He became one of the most successful illustrators of his time, and won numerous awards for his work from the Art Directors Club and the American Institute of Graphic Arts. His clients included Tiffany & Co., The New York Times, I. Miller Shoes, Bonwit Teller, Columbia Records, Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, Fleming-Joffe, NBC, and others. Much of his commercial work was based on photographs and other source images, a process he would use for the rest of his life. He also employed the delightfully quirky handwriting of his mother Julia in many of his works in this period. She won a professional award for her lettering on the LP The Story of Moondog in 1958, and Warhol published a book of her drawings, Holy Cats, in 1957. She was always credited as "Andy Warhol's Mother." She left Pittsburgh in 1952 to join her son, and they lived together until about 1971. Warhol painted memorial portraits of her after her death; he also had made a film and shot videotapes of her.

Warhol was not just another illustrator; he was a painter, printmaker, who was a leading figure in the "Pop Art" movement. After a successful career as a commercial Illustrator, Warhol became famous worldwide for his work as a painter, avant - garde filmmaker, record producer, author and public figure known for his membership in wildly diverse social circles that included bohemian street people, distinguished intellectuals, Hollywood celebrities and wealthy aristocrats.

It was during the 1960s that Warhol began to make paintings of iconic American products such as Cambell's Soup can, and Coca Cola bottles, and paintings of celebrities such as Marylin Monroe, Elvis Presley, Muhammad Ali and Elizabeth Tyler. In his "Factory" he gathered around himself a wide range of artists, writers, musicians, and underground celebrities. His work became popular and controversial. Warhol also used Coca Cola bottles as subject matter for paintings. He had this to say about Coca Cola : "What's great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca Cola, too. A coke is a coke and no amount of money can get you a better coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the cokes are the same and all the cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it". He also began his series of "death and disaster" paintings at this time - images of electric chairs, suicides, and car crashes.

To me all this is like a huge bubble...like in the movies like "Across the Universe" or Tim Burton's "Big Fish". Andy Warhol, Lou Reed, Truman Capote, David Bowie, Woody Allen, Suzan Sontag, Lorie Anderson, Jim Jarmush, Allen Ginsburg, William S Borrows, David Byrne, Man Ray, Tom Waits to Lenard Bernstein....it goes on and on. It's all like a dream....that one dream, which keeps unfolding forever. Everything is bound and connected with each other, everyone has influenced the other. It is so amazing, even though New York is so much of full of surprises, it also have a sort of "New York City boxed in mentality". I think this is true to a certain extent that every city and a country has a boxed in mentality, that is very much relevant to that part of the world.

It is very difficult to talk about Warhol's work since his work is many things. Therefore, Warhal as a filmmaker, I would say more precisely, an avant-garde filmmaker, one of his most famous films, Sleep, monitors poet John Jiarno sleeping for six hours. Another, is "Empire", consists of eight hours of footage of the Empire State building in New York City at dusk. The film Eat consists of a man eating a mushroom for 45 minutes.

Batman Dracula is a 1964 film that was produced and directed by Warhol, without the permission of DC Comics, it was screened only at his art exhibits. A fan of the Batman series, Warhol's movie was an "homage" to the series, and is considered the first appearance of a blatantly campy Batman.

Film Vinyl

Warhol's film Vinyl, an adaptation of Anthony Burgess's popular novel A Clockwork Orange. His most popular and critically successful film was 1966's Chelsea Girls. The film was highly innovative in that it consisted of two 16mm films being projected simultaneously, with two different stories being shown in tandem. From the projection booth, the sound would be raised for one film to elucidate that "story" while it was lowered for the other.

The multiplication of images evoked Warhol's seminal silk-screen works of the early 1960s. Other important films include Bike Boy, My Hustler, and Lonesome Cowboy. These and other titles document gay underground and camp culture, and continue to feature prominently in scholarship about sexuality and art.

The Shoot: On June 3, 1968, Valeri Solanas, shot Warhol and art critic and curator Mario Amaya at Warhol's studio. Before the shooting, Solanas had been a marginal figure in the Factory scene. She founded a "group" called S.C.U.M. (Society for Cutting Up Men) and authored manuscript S.C.U.M. Manifesto. Solanas appeared in the 1968 Warhol film I a man. Amaya received only minor injuries and was released from the hospital later the same day.

Warhol however, was seriously wounded by the attack and barely survived. He suffered physical effects for the rest of his life. The shooting had a profound effect on Warhol's life and art.

Solanas was arrested the day after the assault. By way of explanation, she said that "He had too much control over my life," following which she was eventually sentenced to 3 years under the control of the department of corrections. After the shooting, the Factory scene became much more tightly controlled, and for many this event brought the "Factory 60s" to an end. The shooting was mostly overshadowed in the media due to the assassination of Robert F Kennedy, two days later.

Warhol had this to say about the attack: "Before I was shot, I always thought that I was more half-there than all-there - I always suspected that I was watching TV instead of living life. People sometimes say that the way things happen in movies is unreal, but actually it's the way things happen in life that's unreal. The movies make emotions look so strong and real, whereas when things really do happen to you, it's like watching television - you don't feel anything. Right when I was being shot and ever since, I knew that I was watching television. The channels switch, but it's all television." After his June 3, 1968 shooting, a reclusive Warhol relinquished his personal involvement in filmmaking.

This shooting incident of Warhol, became a very important event to me whenever I thought of Andy Warhol. That reminds me of Jeremiah Newton, who presented my first film "Veils of Maya" (Sihina Deshayen) at NYU's Directors Night in 1993. (That screening was a very important moment of my film life in New York City.

Because that was an door opening to my connections to some of New Yorks amazing underground filmmakers and the film scene).

Director Mary Harron, made the movie "I shot Andy Warhol" with Lili Tyler, another one of my favourite actresses in 1996, based on Jeremaih Newton's book and research and edits of Candy Darling. I would like to continue in another two weeks time with the rest of the article "I didn't shoot Andy Warhol".

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