The art of Andy Warhol was a commentary on the condition of society and their obsession with fame and the famous. This included Andy, as he was completely enchanted by the American royalty of movie stars and celebrities. He was fascinated by the power that television had over the everyday person and saw the glowing box as something that was worshipped more often than most people go to church.
His art reflected his belief in that by taking what we may see as just part of our everyday life and showing us how embedded it is in our psyche and in everything that we do. Consider the Campbell’s Soup Can art. Is it just a soup can? Was it a ‘just’ a soup can before Warhol’s works became famous? No, Campbell’s Soup was already a well established household name. Did Warhol paint them because it meant something? Warhol stated that the paintings represented nothing. No intent, no concept and no meaning.
Art however is not about the artist’s intention; it is about the receiver’s application of their own meaning. Every decade that goes by, there will be new meanings applied to an artist’s works depending on the events of the age in which they are viewed. Warhol’s works could today be viewed as an expose on the condition of our throw away lifestyle. This could even be said about Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe Painting.
Just as a can of the Campbell’s Soup, Marilyn was iconic, filled her admirer’s with a warm, good feeling and then was carelessly emptied and thrown away. In the great stretch of time, perhaps Warhol was right, the paintings are of nothing, the soup means nothing and perhaps Marilyn was treated by society in the very same way. So many people love her now, even today. Can a person’s life and accomplishments be condensed to a painting that represents nothing?
Warhol’s paintings can really make one think about what the priorities of humanity are. The things that we put so much importance on are so fleeting and when they are made larger than life on a canvas, they force us to think of our mortality. Many of Warhol’s works were in a way tied very heavily to religion.
He made use of gold leaf in the tradition of iconic paintings of Byzantine Catholics. In Gold Marilyn Monroe depicts her iconic status, the worship of her admirers and the sheer loneliness of her life. Her face is painted as if she were in a newsprint advertisement, another throw away in our lives. Warhol continually brought attention to the fame that elevated objects and people to a religious following.
It is hard to make a strong emotional connection by simply studying a Warhol painting. Only those that already have a preconceived emotional tie to the subject of his paintings can feel anything from them. They do however, immediately invoke a memory, and those memories spark emotions. Looking at Marilyn Monroe in a Warhol painting can mean nothing to the viewer if they have never heard of Marilyn Monroe and her story.