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Only A White Guy Could Get Away With Being Andy Warhol
Like every "good" graduate art student in New York City, I saw "Andy Warhol—From A to B Again" at the Whitney. And like many fellow women artists, it left me feeling angry. I applaud Warhol for his gusto, but for all of his innovations, he was still a white man. A gay white man, of course, but a white man nonetheless. That meant that he could move through the world in ways that people of other genders and races could not. A black woman artist of Warhol's time could not have had a "factory"—the name of Warhol's fantastic New York studio, where he reportedly exploited plenty of folks. A recent Observer article noted, "He expected free labor or failed to pay those at the factory, while [the Factory's] culture of drug addiction spent the lives of many who were part of his entourage in the 1960s." Bam. As if Warhol's habit of turning every art object into a mass-produced commodity didn't make me sick enough already. I like a technicolor Marilyn Monroe print as much as the next guy (or gal or unicorn) and yet I can't look at one for more than a few seconds before resentment starts to wash over me.
Andy Warhol could only succeed as a white man. Here are 7 reasons why his equally talented female contemporary, given 1960s social mores, could not have run her own art factory:
1. She wouldn't have been taken seriously as an art student—or encouraged to go to art school at all. Just remember, artist and instructor Hans Hoffman once "complimented" a painting by Lee Krasner aka Mrs. Pollock by telling his then-student, "This is so good you wouldn’t know it was done by a woman.” Meanwhile, Andy went to Carnegie Tech, now Carnegie Mellon.
2. She was supposed to have a marriage instead of an art career. The average marriage age for a woman in the 1960s was in one's early 20s.
3. She was supposed to make a baby, not a magnum opus. And if she got pregnant and wanted an abortion? Too bad.
4. She couldn't open a credit card to finance her factory. She wasn't even allowed her own bank account!
5. She couldn't go on birth control and have the wild extramarital sex necessary for running such a factory.
6. Forget #4. She wasn't even allowed to talk openly about sex, let alone have it. How do you run a lively New York art studio with glitz and parties but no sex?!
7. She lived in a pre-#MeToo era. In fact, she would've been growing up just as feminism was starting to take off! Don't think for a minute that art parties à la Warhol Factory were harassment-free.