You just never know

What do you think of when you think of Andy Warhol? Campbell’s Soup? All-night parties? Pop-art album covers for the Rolling Stones? You might picture a slight, frail, near-albino artist in tortoise shell glasses, but you probably wouldn’t picture him in the back pew of a Catholic church, genuflecting devoutly. But that’s where he was, several times a week for his entire adult life, his devotion to Christ a quiet, even secret, affair. Few people knew that he was a regular at a New York City homeless shelter where he served meals and spoke tenderly with the visitors. Nor that he painted 60 pop-art versions of The Last Supper, an entire series of crosses, another one of Madonnas, a Colorform-esque painting of twelve eggs, symbolizing the disciples, and a Madison Avenue-style poster that proclaimed, “Heaven and Hell are just one breath away!” On his nightstand, where, if his public persona was to be believed you’d find bottles of amphetamines, was, instead, a crucifix. When his funeral was held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the art world was confused.

Truth is, we never know another person’s heart. And although their deeds will often reflect their beliefs, often times they reflect them clumsily, or imperfectly, or like the reclusive Andy Warhol, privately.

So today— heck, maybe all the way from now til Christmas— let’s try to assume we know nothing of what’s in another person’s heart. If we picture them, let us picture them like this: bathed in gold and holding in their secret hand the symbol of Love.

Andy Warhol, Untitled (Gold Hand with Creche), 1957. This is his own hand, holding a symbol of the Christmas folk ceremonies from his parents' native Mikova

Andy Warhol, Untitled (Gold Hand with Creche), 1957. Warhol’s own long-fingered hand holds a little creche, suggesting his familiarity with the Christmas folk ceremonies brought by his parents from Mikova in the Slovak Republic (The Religious Art of Andy Warhol, Jane Daggett Dillenberger, 1998)

8 Comments on “You just never know

  1. So nice to hear this. I minored in art history (special interest in modern) and you’re right –
    never heard this about him or would have thought it.

    • There’s a wonderful book with all the art and a good deal of biographical info. “The Religious Art of Andy Warhol” by Jane Daggett Dillenberger. A sad and fascinating life.

  2. I had read this about him in the past.. sounds much better w/ your eloquent touch.

  3. I knew his work hinted at this- Only because I have a bag with his crosses and a Madonna on it. The above drawing is lovely though, I’ve never seen it before. Thx for sharing!

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