Andy Warhol, Silver Screen

Last winter, I featured an outfit that reminded me very much of one of my favourite pop artists, Roy Lichtenstein. In that entry, I hinted that wouldn’t be the last time I pay homage to an artist in dress. Today is the fulfillment of that promise. Although, I didn’t stray too far in my point of reference – I just moved from one pop artist to another. This shirt  came home from the thrift store because it reminded me of the oft-imitated Andy Warhol. In particular, it brought to mind his Flowers series – especially the 1964 original:

Andy Warhol | Flowers, 1964

My university art prof wouldn’t be surprised to see Andy make an appearance on the blog, my relationship with Andy is a long one. I somehow managed to write (or paint) him into nearly every major modern art project I’ve done over the past decade. It started with a grade 10 painting of a repeated shrieking baby in garish greens. It ended with a tragic tribute to a bald Britney Spears in the midst of her 2008 breakdown for my senior Modern Art final:

I’m honest enough with myself to realize that an obsession with Andy Warhol is an art student cliche these days. Now more than ever, edgy millennials pin, share, post and hang Warhol without a second thought. He’s become dangerously familiar. His work has ascended to the same level of pop-cultural awareness as, say, a Campbell’s soup can in the 60s (that just got really meta…). However, that doesn’t take away the potency of his legacy, nor does it diminish the genuine influence he’s had on my own aesthetic and worldview. In many ways, it just affirms he was a prophet as much as an artist.

Andy Warhol | Flowers, 1970

So what is it about Andy’s work that will forever continue to hold sway over arty college students? My own experience with primary art education will likely ring true for many for you, and maybe shed some light on the Warhol phenomena. It went a little like this: You meet the Mona Lisa in grade 3, Michelangelo in grade 5, and if you’re lucky, Monet in Grade 6. Then you repeat that for a few more years. Don’t get me wrong – there is much to be gained from the pages of art history, but after years of art education that seemed to begin and end with the Renaissance, the discovery of Warhol was a welcomed shock to my apathetic teenaged brain. Instead of frescoes, oils, and chiaroscuro, Andy gives us silk-screened canvases set ablaze with hot pinks, neon yellows, and primary reds. Rather than Venus and St. Paul, he gives us Elvis and Marilyn. The day I encountered Andy, I found myself staring down a host of new possibilities, because he made me realize that art is anything.

As someone who still watches too much TV and may indulge in a celebrity blog now and again, Warhol gave me validation that pop culture is worth exploring – it’s a subject every bit as valid for artistic exploration as a landscape or still life. There is so much to be learned from it.

I think, too, part of Warhol’s draw is his deceptive simplicity: deceptive in that he didn’t set out to create art for trendy 20-somethings. He set out creating dark and murky mirrors for an overly-consumerized society. College kids might share a Warhol quote because it says something snappy and it’s set in Helvetica, but Andy’s always been toying will all of us: There is so much more behind the canvas. Take the Flowers my shirt is referencing:

“What is incredible about the best of the flower paintings (especially the large ones) is that they present a distillation of much of the strength of Warhol’s art–the flash of beauty that suddenly becomes tragic under the viewer’s gaze. The garish and brilliantly colored flowers always gravitate toward the surrounding blackness and finally end up in a sea of morbidity. No matter how much one wishes these flowers to remain beautiful they perish under one’s gaze, as if haunted by death.” (J. Coplans, “Andy Warhol: The Art”, Andy Warhol, exh. cat., Pasadena Art Museum, 1970, p.52).

Whoa. That got a little heavy, didn’t it? But that right there sums up my attraction to Warhol’s work – it subverts the superficial with, well, the superficial. We could all  spend a lifetime striving to do something as poignant, and never quite get there.

You’re not going to find any attempts at poignancy here today – just a funky t-shirt and a few words on a artist I love. I’m thankful for Andy Warhol. I’m thankful for his Flowers. I’m thankful for this thrifted shirt that prompted one more Warholian reflection. And, finally, I’m thankful for these stretchy gray pants that mark the official end to my dry spell in thrifting pants. OK, that’s not entirely related, but it needed to be said. Poignancy aside, I know Andy would appreciate a good pair of trousers.

Art Attack

Let me confess something to you: I don’t love fashion. I don’t read runway reports, I only buy the big September issue of Vogue, and I don’t really care to know who Rachel Zoe is. My relationship with fashion is one of appreciation: I love the idea of personal expression through colour, I love the notion that we can use clothing as visual representations of our identity: the times we live in, and the places we’re from. More simply, I love beautiful things. I feel much the same way about home decor. In fact, most of my decisions about fashion and design come from my deeper love for art and art history, in which I hold my degree. More than any magazine, that tends to be the driving force behind the way I decorate my home, and myself. I’ll buy a bed spread because it matches the Monet in my bedroom, and yesterday, I wore a red blouse with yellow flats because it made me feel like a Lichtenstein panel:

This look was a happy accident. I thrifted the red Evan Picone blouse from the Salvation Army on Saturday, mostly because it looked kind of like Minnie Mouse. I found that it tucked in nicely with a navy skirt, and only once I added the yellow flats did the Roy Lichtenstein girl come to life.

Like any good edgy art student, I was in a Pop Art phase for most of my college career (I kinda still am), so I was quite delighted by this pop art palette. If the image up top didn’t ring any bells, Lichenstein was a pop artist from the 1960s New York scene. He is the man behind the now-iconic recreations of vintage comic book panels, using hard lines, bold colours and half-tone (dotted) filling.

Given the subject matter I was referencing, it only made sense to top off the look with a bold red lip and a Betty Cooper pony tail.

This won’t be the last time I reference an art movement in my choice of dress – I thrifted a RAD Modrian-style mini dress the same time I picked up this spotty blouse, so you’ll have to stay tuned for the De Stijl edition of We So Thrifty. Don’t hold your breath for a Duchamp-inspirted outfit though (#artjoke).

One more fun fact to close out the post: The lovely notebook I’m holding was a gift from my friend Jenna, who dresses up dull notebooks with retro fabric and makes them look way more stylin’. Thanks Jenna!