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Andy Warhol’s complicated and secret Catholicism

He was admittedly gay at a time when it was not yet fashionable. Andy Warhol, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, did not hide his sexual preferences in the closet, but, unfortunately, he has hid something far more relevant at the bottom of a drawer: the expression of his Catholic faith.

Andy Warhol became rich and famous not only by selling his work in art, fashion, design … but also by selling a caricature, the character he made of himself: a satirical, superficial man, obsessed with fame and wealth, always exhibiting an expression of eternal boredom.

The king of pop art was also a promoter of glamorized pornography. Explicit sex scenes took on a new guise and began to be considered by the mainstream as “serious art” thanks to Andy Warhol’s “porn chic” films.

In 1980, however, the American press took a scare: Warhol was photographed in a papal audience in St. Peter’s Square, shaking hands with St. John Paul II. Since then, many journalists have tried to obtain information about his beliefs, but he has remained closed on this issue.

As the Gospels teach us, the hypocrite promotes a holy image of himself in public life, but secretly practices the opposite of the faith he professes. In turn, Andy Warhol was the extreme (and, perhaps, equally unfortunate) opposite of the hypocrite. He presented a public image of debauchery and cynicism, while in his private life he had a routine full of acts of a pious and traditional Catholic faith.

Publicly, a transgressor. Privately, a fervent Catholic, who lived with his mother, knelt to pray every day before leaving home, went to church daily, encouraged his nephew to be a priest (he paid for Mark Warhola’s studies at the seminary) and always carried the rosary with him.

He also financed a work to distribute meals to the poor and beggars, where he personally volunteered. This was revealed by his friend John Richardson (in “Warhol at Home”, Sacred Monsters, Sacred Masters):

“In fact, he had a secret, a secret that was hidden from all but the most intimate: he was extremely devout – so much so that he made daily visits to St. Vincent Ferrer’s church on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. (…) Although notoriously economical, he was also secretly charitable, in addition to giving financial support, he often spent his nights working in a shelter for the homeless. ”

Andy Warhol’s values ​​about family and “gender” were conservative. He never fought for the so-called “gay cause”, and in his diary he recorded severe trials against film director Martin Scorsese for his divorce and remarriage.

In Andy Warhol: A Biography, Wayne Koestenbaum wrote:

“Andy’s sexual radicalism clashes with his strangely conservative view of male and female identity: he was able to be anarchically free from patterns of gender behavior because he felt so stripped of masculinity that he did not endeavor to fit into this role (…). He rejected conventional sexual and social models, but he also believed that homosexuality was a ‘problem’ and that heterosexual men are real men. ”

Andy Warhol was an Eastern Catholic, from the Ruthenian Byzantine rite community (learn more about Eastern Catholic churches here). His parents were born in a village on the northern border of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. They migrated to the USA (Pittsburgh), where Andy was born, in 1928.

The last employee hired from Warhol’s studio (the Factory), Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni, said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine that “Being educated as a Catholic gives you a sense of hierarchical order, discipline and faith. Faith, when embraced, anchors the creative ”.

Some members of his inner circle, like Bob Colacello, say that Warhol abstained from sexual contact. That was a long way from making him an example of chastity: after all, he was a voyeur and had a few hookups, as with photographer Billy Name.

We cannot but deeply regret this option for a dramatically ambiguous and divided life, when we remember what Christ said:

You are the light of the world. (…) Nobody lights a lamp, and places it under a bowl, but in a lamp, where it shines for everyone in the house. May your light also shine before men, that they may see your good works and praise your Father who is in heaven. (Mt 5, 14-16)

May God give rest to the soul of Andy Warhol (who left this world at the age of 54, in 1987), and give each of us the grace of a sincere faith that can illuminate all aspects of our life, without leaving anything out of the ordinary. reach of the light of Christ.

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