Andy Warhol – Madman or Genius?

andy warhol soup canThe first time I met Andy Warhol was at a party in New York. I’m standing in one spot for what seems an eternity, looking at the strangest man I’ve ever met. I don’t know who he is, what he does, or what spaceship he arrived on. His presentation of himself is a contrived maneuver to keep the attention focused on him alone, while I struggle to figure out what is wrong, if there is anything wrong, or if he’s just a figment of my imagination. His bow tie cocked to one side, his hair more like a fright wig gone askew, with a dash of corn starch sprinkled here and there, his left eyebrow a few centimeters off, and the length of his jacket favoring the left side.

Andy Warhol – Genius or Madman?

Each time he shakes his head, an avalanche of dandruff cascades downward onto his shoulders, like those glass snowballs with Santas in them, that when you turn them upside down, white snowflakes generously fall.  His pale face looks like it’s been douched in formaldehyde.  Before I can open my mouth, Lovie says, “Jen, have you met Andy Warhol?”

Before I have a chance to answer, Andy jumps right in, “Have you seen my underground movies?”  His strange speech pattern makes me envision the Rock Island Line barreling through tunnels of his excruciating long pauses between words.  I remember a socialite, whose name escapes me at the moment, who made one of his underground movies. The title of his avant-garde film is Sleep, and that’s what they did on screen for five hours and twenty five minutes; slept. It catapulted a New York socialite into a wannabee rock star whose career fizzled as fast as her voice.

Truth be told, to look at one of Andy’s artsy movies for five plus hours, is more than I could stand, so I reply, “Not yet, but lookin’ forward to it.”

In the same moment, we begin to play a game. I find myself liking him despite his terminal demeanor, another ploy used to hypnotize the clueless. I steer away from more discussion of his films which seem tedious and uninspired next to Andy himself, standing before me.  In a breathy almost hypnotic voice, he begins the following conversation.. He says, “Will you star in my next movie?”

“What’s it called?”


“Who will I kiss?”

“Anyone you want.”

“For how long?”

“For two hours non-stop”

“What if I have to pee?”

“Sure, but you can’t stop kissing.”

“I appreciate your offer but it doesn’t sound like a plan. Thanks anyway.”

Andy offers, “Think on it. Next week then, we’ll get together.”

Before I can answer, Lovie jumps in, throws his hands in the air with a feigned note of exasperation, and in the same breath tells Andy he loves the idea, and we’ll definitely get together in the weeks to come. Andy, a faint smile on his lips, is still focused on me. The game isn’t quite over yet.

After we leave the party, Lovie starts in on me. He’s furious I just dismissed the most famous artist on earth.  There are no grays in his world. It’s either black or white. True, I don’t think much of Andy’s five hour, long-take footage, anti-films, but I like him personally. Outside of being a marketing genius, he seems content in his own skin.  I envy him that.


From Tharon Ann, Part Two, Show Biz Here I Come.

To quote Tony Scherman and David Dalton in their book, POP: The Genius of
Andy Warhol: “To his critics, he was the cynical magus of a movement that debased high
art and reduced it to a commodity. To his admirers, he was the most
important artist since Picasso.”



“Sometimes people let the same problem make them miserable for years when they could just say, So what. That’s one of my favorite things to say. So what.
Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol
Was Andy Warhol – Madman or Genius? To quote one of Andy’s favorite replies, “Why not?” …Why not both?
Off hand, I would say Andy Warhol – Madman or Genius was both. He loved to play mind games, and was a genius at marketing not only his art but himself.




5 thoughts on “Andy Warhol – Madman or Genius?

  1. Jennifer. This was a wonderful bookend to my morning which began by watching a netflix docentary on Bob Weir. You’re narration of events was visually exciting as your infallible way with words continues to prove, every day. Thank you for sharing this with me personally and in a grander sense, with the larger society. Andy himself presupposed, we have become a society where everyone feels entitled to their 15 minutes of fame, but without the insane revolutionary mind of an Andy Worhal we simply would not be whom wet have become. He gave visionary voice to his version a future which e currently inhabit. Thank you for reintroducing this mythic personality as an uncommonly common man. I shall cherish your insights as I do your other writings.


  2. I love anyone who can take a can of soup and convince a bunch of art snobs that it’s high art. I have one of his prints, Sunflower. I love the colors. Also his series of cat pictures. There atrociously drawn, but I love them, especially “One Blue Pussy”. I had that in my front room but had to move it because, it you can believe it, some of the ultra religious (read “hypocrites”) that my husband worked with objected to it.

  3. Fascinating article and extremely vivid. Thanks, Jennifer. I attended the opening week of the Campbell Soup Exhibit. The actor Edward G. Robinson walked in; he is also a famous private collector. All I noted were posters of soup and I laughed as if someone were trying to put one over on me. I wonder if Eddy saw the exhibit differently.

  4. I would have to agree with you Jennifer…I think he was one of those artist who was ahead of his time. I have a book with pictures of “The Factory” and people who were in his movies and of course his work.

  5. I think Andy Warhol’s real genius was perspective. He was able to project a desired affect and keep it at the front of his horizon, a type of focus. He knew his audience’s appetites well, and satisfied their need for titillation whilst being an adept manipulator. Why not ring your own bell? It will probably to be a long wait if you expect someone else is going to step for you!

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