Prince of Pop: Andy Warhol

Known as the Prince of Pop Art, Andy Warhol is quite possibly one of the most interesting icons of popular culture and visual art in the past few decades. His life was a rags to riches story. He was an outrageous character. He interacted with such a strange and varied collective of people. When recounted, Andy Warhol's life almost sounds like a work of fiction and yet he was real. Andy Warhol was an innovator, a character, and possibly one of the best things that ever happened to the art world.

Andy Warhol (nee Andrew Warhola) was born in a small Pennsylvanian town in 1928 to Slovak immigrants parents. He was a sickly child, suffering from chorea (a nervous system disease that manifests as involuntary movements of the arms and legs). Warhol's illness alienated him from his peers and he spent much of his time bed-ridden. During his long periods in bed, Warhol listened to the radio, drew, and collected pictures of movie stars, a practice that Warhol later claimed was very important in the development of his personality and artistic preferences.

Warhol showed a talent for drawing and painting early in life, which led him to eventually persue a degree in commercial art at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh. Warhol graduated in 1949 and quickly relocated to New York where he worked as an illustrator and commercial advertising artist for magazines.

While Warhol was commercially successful as an illustrator, it wasn't until the 1960s when Warhol began exhibition original artwork that he gained major attention. The appeal of his work lay in his ability to collapse the difference between fine art and the commercial arts. He started painting common objects like Campbell Soup cans and Coke bottles, touting them as fine art. The art community was intrigued, never before had someone elevated mass produced goods to such a level.

He soon became a famous figure in the New York art scene, mingling with a broad range of people from bohemian hipsters to debutants, Hollywood stars to underground artists. From 1962 on, Warhol started making what would eventually become some of his most recognizable and sought after work - silkscreen prints of famous icons like Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Muhammad Ali, and Elizabeth Taylor.

Although Warhol's popularity waned after the 1960s, his work remains iconic. The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, PA stands as a testimony to his enduring impact on the art community and reproductions, posters, and prints of his "celebrity" prints, Coke bottles, and Campbell Soup cans are still popular amongst art fanatics as well as the general population. Warhol will forever be remembered as an innovator and deservedly so.