I'm the type who'd be happy not going anywhere as long as I was sure I knew exactly what was happening at the places I wasn't going to. I'm the type who'd like to sit home and watch every party that I'm invited to on a monitor in my bedroom.
Andy Warhol wanted to be loved. But he was terrified of people, and reaching out was agony in those early days.
When he first came to New York, he was a pathologically shy kid who was trying to make it in design in the Big City, sketching shoes, dressing up store windows. He lived in a cheap one room apartment with his cats and empty Campbell’s soup cans all over the place.
You risked your life just to step inside, but step inside I often did, because Andy was funny, and sweet, and we shared that same extreme shyness and fear of the outside world. So we felt safe together.
Back then, when we were friends, Andy had not yet become the enfant terrible of the New York art world. He was just another skinny wanna-be artist. We laughed a lot when I would go see him, and shared stories about how we felt like outcasts, and how insane the world of Big Art was.
Andy talked about how he wanted to meet people, but was so shy. He said he didn’t know how to connect, and it seemed that whenever he tried to break out of his shell, he would be rebuffed. He also was afraid that he would never make it as an artist. “I’m just a designer,” he would say, looking forlorn, petting his cats, who seemed to be the only real friends he had.
To cheer him up, and because I loved his work, I would buy his little paintings of S&H stamps, airmail stamps, and soup cans. He was selling them at around $50 each, so I could afford a few. I loved the fact that he was outrageous, and willing to do art that was uniquely his way of seeing the world.
He once said: Everything has its beauty but not everyone sees it.”
Seeing himself as an Outsider, and total Outcast, Andy finally gave up trying to win friends and do art that he thought would be popular, and that people would buy.
Andy Warhol said effectively:”Eff this!”
Andy Warhol turned his back on the world, continued to paint Campbell’s soup cans, mainly because he loved Campbell’s soup, and had a lot of empty cans around. Same for the S&H stamps. Same for Marilyn Monroe.
He stopped forcing himself to chase the Beautiful People for their friendship and approval of his art. He shut himself in with his cats, and painted what he damn well pleased.
Andy became Authentic.
And this was his beginning, his breakthrough.
The minute he said the hell with all that, he became the most sought-after, talked about new artist in New York.
Everyone wanted to be Andy’s friend – Friend of Andy. His friendship became the new new thing.
And the rest is history.
Moral: It’s OK to want to get your work out there, and OK to yearn for fame, but you have to start with letting all that go, shut your door, make friends with your Muse, and just focus on creating the most true work you can create.
As the Spanish Proverb has it: “For a web begun, God sends thread.”
(Photograph collage by Alex using the Warholizer)