Andy Warhol Endangered Species / Myth Series
The Andy Warhol Myth Series is a collection of short essays and interviews that explore the life and times of one of pop art's most prolific artists-Andy Warhol (1928 - 1987). The first volume was published in 2003 by Fantom Press. It includes an interview with writer/producer Norman Mailer, Andy Warhol's former girlfriend Mary Woronoff, and screenwriter David Mamet; all conducted shortly before Warhol's death from lung cancer on February 22nd, 1987 at age 53. In this article we will look at Andy Warhol as he appears in "Endangered Species," his 1991 book co-authored by John Wilcock.
In Endangered Species, Warhol explores what it means to be alive today. He begins with childhood memories of World War II, which are interspersed with reflections on growing up during the 1950s and 1960s. From there, Warhol shares stories about his relationships with women including Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor to the more recent affair with Madonna. We also learn about his drug use, controversial films like Exploding Plastic People of America and Sleep (1963), and later work such as Interview Magazine, Polaroid cameras, and Pop Art paintings. Throughout, images of celebrities and ordinary people become symbols of our culture, while Warhol himself becomes something of a celebrity himself. As he says in the introduction, "I'm not interested in making things better or easier for myself... I want to get closer to living."
At first glance, you might think that these issues are timeless. But if you consider how much has changed since Warhol began publishing his books, you'll soon realize that they're still very relevant. Here are just two examples: Warhol's own personal experience with being gay, and his relationship with John Wilcock, who became his business partner after meeting him through mutual friends in 1978 in New York City. Although both men were married when they met, neither wanted their wives to know anything about them having sex together. They weren't even able to talk openly about their sexuality without risking losing custody over their children. And yet, here were two men sharing intimate details of each other's lives knowing full well that no matter where they went nobody would ever believe them.
And then there's the story of Warhol's relationship with fellow artist Liz Tilberis. She claims she gave birth to her daughter out of wedlock. After trying unsuccessfully to have the baby adopted, she decided to raise the child herself. When the girl reached 18 months old, Liz took her back into state care because she had been sexually molested by her father. What happened next shocked everyone involved. Instead of taking advantage of the situation, Warhol helped Liz regain custody of her daughter only to give her away again once she turned 21 years old so that she could marry another man. By doing so, Warhol may have ended up saving Liz' life but at great cost to both themselves and their child.
While many readers might find these topics disturbing, others will likely see them as proof of Warhol's commitment to authenticity. For example, take the case of Warhol's friend Jack Kerouc who wrote extensively about drugs and sex in his 1957 memoir On The Road. While some critics argue that Warhol didn't do enough to challenge the values of mainstream American society, those same people often fail to recognize the importance of Kerouc's influence. His writings undoubtedly played a major role in helping shape Warhol's understanding of certain subjects such as the value of free love and the need to break down social barriers between classes. Likewise, Warhol's fascination with famous personalities can easily be seen as nothing more than admiration. However, looking deeper, you discover that Warhol was actually using these figures to shed light on certain aspects of human behavior. This explains why he eventually came to reject his earlier works and embrace new ideas throughout his career.
Perhaps the greatest lesson learned from reading Warhol's books isn't about the artist per se but rather how we should live our lives regardless of whether we happen to fit within traditional norms. Perhaps this message best sums up his philosophy toward life in general: "Everything happens anyway, don't let anyone tell you otherwise."