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Warhol just arrived in Michigan City: And the timing couldn’t be better.

June 13, 2018

Submitted by Matthew A. Werner

I heard Andy Warhol was coming to Michigan City and giant visions of Campbell’s soup cans and Marilyn Monroe danced in my head. My friend, Jose, wasn’t interested.

“Warhol—eh—not a fan,” he said.

We were at the zine fest at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts and had just learned about the Warhol exhibit. Someone standing nearby overheard. But this someone wasn’t just anyone; she was Lora Fosberg, director of exhibitions.

Fosberg can go deep into the fine details of the great masters of art, delighting experts, but she also finds art in old snapshots and beauty in beat up jalopies, such as the 1969 Pontiac Tempest she drove as a teenager. She finds wonderment in Warhol and knew where to reach us. She is an art ambassador.

“Oh, man, don’t be so quick to judge!” she chimed in. She too had doubted Warhol’s place in the art pantheon. She intensely studied his work for a year to make an informed decision, and in the end, developed a love-hate relationship with the artist.

So, was he a great artist, I asked?

A grin crossed her face and she nodded toward us. “Oh yeah,” she said.

Andy Warhol is a pop culture icon and controversial figure. You can picture his face framed by a white wig or his colorful screen prints. His exploits at the Factory where he surrounded himself with artists and famous people is legendary, as was his regular hangout, Studio 54. Nineteen-eighties New York reveled in excess and Warhol was at the hub.

“He had a photo of everyone he came in contact with,” Fosberg said. “Why? In case they get famous so he can do a screen print of them, or do a screen print of them to help them get famous. He’s just recording everything at every moment he’s making decisions. ‘Oh, I know, I’ll make a screen print of some rich collector which will make them want to buy it.’”

Which Warhol did repeatedly. So, he always was thinking about the commercial aspect, not just the promotion, I asked?

“That is the art,” Fosberg said. “That is not just the promotion part. That is the art—the art of sales, the art of stoking interest, the art of being on the cutting edge. He was a very deep individual in his shallowness.” She laughed.

“He was a layered, and layered, and layered individual with so many interests. It’s not just about the image. It’s about—your life is the art, not just the making of the art. He really lived it.”

To just look at Warhol’s work on a wall and walk away, you might miss the point. There is a lot going on and the discovery is the fun part.

“Andy Warhol worked in multiples—that was his big thing, to show banality through repetition. He elevated mundane objects like the Campbell’s soup can and brought low forms of pop culture into high art. That’s the idea of pop art.”

You may think a soup can cannot be art. But why hang an old advertisement sign on your wall, put a 60 year old toy behind glass on a shelf, hang a quilt for people to ogle, or park a classic car to gawk, but not touch? These are everyday items that conjure emotions. We even find beauty and art in them.

“He also did things like Jackie Kennedy, right at the moment JFK was killed, from scenes he got out of newspapers—public domain stuff,” Fosberg said. “He had this idea if you saw it over and over and over again, that your reaction to it would be suppressed. And that’s what TV does—that’s what pop culture does. It desensitizes humanity. Which was a very progressive outlook. He was obsessed with TV and now we know that is very much true.”

Consider the running news cycle. Children murdered. Dead refugees washed up on a beach. Cities decimated by bombs. Poison gas killed innocent people. World leaders spew bombast. We no longer pause or blink. We seldom get outraged at outrageous words and events.

“We can use our world now as a perfect example. These are such difficult times but we are so suppressed in our reaction. We all just say, ‘Oh,’ and don’t react—our reactions are definitely suppressed.”

If we hear something enough times, we stop feeling it. If we are told green is blue enough times, we start to believe it. Meaning is destroyed. Self-promotion triumphs over everything else. Warhol saw it all, exploited it, and showed it to the world through art.

“Yeah, Andy was really on the cutting edge with his ideas. Art mimics the world. An artist’s job is to record what is happening now. And Andy was the master of that. Look how prophetic he was. He really could see into the future.”

But wait, there’s more!

“He was a genius in his decisions to record the now. He thought everything was relevant. Every bit of banality was relevant.”

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Snapchat—we share everything in our lives, convinced it’s important. Our meals, our pets, our sunsets, the weather, every flat tire and coffee spill—photographed, commented on, and shared with the universe on the World Wide Web. Everything I do is relevant.

“He was the beginning. Look who started it—Andy started it.”

Thirty-nine Warhol Polaroids and black & white photographs—including photos of Gary Trudeau, Dolly Parton, Gianni Versace, Ric Ocasek of The Cars, Kitty De-Alessio, and Jack Nicklaus—will be on display. So will famous screen prints of Sitting Bull, Annie Oakley, Campbell’s Onion Soup can, and the last piece of art Warhol made before his death—a screen print of Neil Armstrong’s photograph of Buzz Aldren on the moon. All curated by the Lubeznik Center of the Arts and generously funded by NIPSCO.

Warhol quotes will be posted throughout the exhibit to provide insight. Comments will accompany some pieces, revealing information in an accessible, ’69 Tempest sort of style, while revealing some hidden gems sure to impress art aficionados.

“This [Warhol’s art] could be garbage,” Fosberg said. “It could be!” She smiled. “You get to decide. Let us put it out there and you can decide.”

As for Jose, his interest has been piqued—the detractor is looking forward to seeing Warhol himself. After all, these images may never come out again. And if so, who knows when and where?

Go to the Lubeznik Center and experience Warhol firsthand. Learn something new. View work of five other artists on display (Yvette Mayorga, Robyn Day, Chris Kosnowski, CJ Hungerman, and Dominic Sansone) and see if you see Warhol’s influence on their work. Most important, have fun and decide for yourself what Warhol’s legacy should be.

“Warhol: Icon & Influence” runs at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts from June 9 – October 13. An opening reception will be held Friday, July 6, 5 – 8 pm. You can find out more here.

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