Andy Warhol is an artist who has been written about a great deal. Portrayed as both carefully charismatic, with a sharp tongue and a striking look, and a stoic businessman who approached life from a distance like a hidden voyeur. However, with many quotes wrongly attributed to Warhol, and he himself liking to mislead the press with contrasting autobiographies, it is sometimes difficult to understand exactly who the man was.
One thing that is frequently suggested is that Warhol, despite his fame, struggled hugely in social situations and found it difficult to recognise who his friends were. His open studio ‘The Factory’ highlights this well, where Warhol was constantly surrounded by the supposed misfits of New York City. There was a constant buzz of loud personalities: superstars and addicts, many of whom were relying financially on the artist. It was a world in which Warhol was king.
We cannot know for sure, but personally, I have always seen Andy Warhol as a high-functioning sociopath, but as if he were emotionally inept rather than socially. This is clear in his relationship with actress and socialite Edie Sedgwick, who featured heavily in Warhol’s films and died of an overdose before her last movie, Ciao! Manhattan, was released. The films are mostly explicit in their nature, Beauty No. 2 being the most controversial. It revolved around Sedgwick, clad in lace underwear, flirting with fellow Warhol star Gino Piesrchio while she was abused from behind the camera.
Of course, the representation of her in Warhol’s films was purposely ironic. Contrasting both Beauty No. 2 and Poor Little Rich Girl against her biography, the crowd that surrounded her at the Factory, and Warhol’s negligence to support her financially, it is possible to consider that he may have driven her to her death.
It is interesting to consider that he may have seen her as a living continuation of his matinée idol paintings, their natural progression, like she was the physical Brillo Soap Box to the print of his Campbell’s Soup Cans. In this role, she would follow his mass reproductions of the images of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, his silkscreen Marilyn Diptych and Liz #1, which presented superstars in the same mundanity as his depictions of commercial products.
In other words, a sociopathic Warhol would have captured Edie’s every movement in film and photograph, so he could make a point as to how easy it is for a person to become famous. He would experiment on his own personal superstar, despite her talent, and coerce her into becoming the surreal representation of the celebrity, having already calculated her fall from grace. He said it best himself, cutting as always, that: “if Edie kills herself, I hope she lets us know so we can film it”. To think that he really might have consciously manipulated her into becoming an extension of his pop art ideals, from the bright start of her career to her overdose, is really quite a disturbing thought.
James Mullard is a twenty-year-old student and young writer at Manchester Metropolitan University. He has previous publications in Nous Magazine, Black & Blue, the Cadaverine and Fade Poetry Journal.