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Moments after Valerie Solanas entered Andy Warhol’s sixth-floor office at 33 Union Square West on June 3, 1968, carrying two guns and a massive, paranoid grudge, their lives would be changed forever. She thought he was was going to steal her manuscript, he ignored her calls. It was among many violent crimes that would come to define this tumultuous year in American history.
Andy Warhol was the most recognized artist working in America.
At the time he was shot, Andy Warhol “was easily one of the most recognized and popular artists working in America,” according to Jose Diaz, curator of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (where Warhol was born). A successful commercial artist in the 1950s, Warhol’s influential pop art paintings, including images of Campbell’s soup cans, Coca-Cola bottles and other commercial products, and his colorful, stylized celebrity portraits made him internationally famous.
In 1964, Warhol opened the Factory, a large warehouse in Midtown Manhattan with foil-covered, silver-painted walls. The combination studio, laboratory and party room became a mecca for the counterculture, attracting “every walk of life, from the most beautiful people to other artists, celebrities, musicians. It really was the center of creativity in the late ‘60s in New York City,” Diaz says. Thanks to Warhol’s powerful influence, “superstar” members of his Factory clique like Edie Sedgwick, Ultra Violet, Viva, Candy Darling and Nico, appeared in the underground films that he produced at the Factory, and became famous in their own right (if only for 15 minutes).
Valerie Solanas masterwork was her SCUM Manifesto.
A radical feminist writer and activist and a bit player in the Factory universe, Valerie Solanas founded an organization called the Society for Cutting Up Men (SCUM), of which she was the sole member.
Beginning in late 1965, she repeatedly tried to get Warhol to produce a play she had written called Up Your Ass, with little success. Warhol never promised to produce the play, but he gave the perpetually broke Solanas a role in his 1967 film I, A Man, for which she was paid $25. “The play was considered vulgar, humorless,” Diaz explains. “Even Andy and his crew thought it was a bit too much.”
Solanas’ masterwork was her SCUM Manifesto, which she wrote between 1965 and 1967. It envisioned a world without men, calling on “civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females” to “overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and eliminate the male sex.” As Breanne Fahs writes in her 2014 biography of Solanas, Valerie tried to get Warhol to help promote SCUM, even asking him in a letter in mid-1967 if he’d like to join the “Men’s Auxiliary,” the group of sympathetic men who were, according to the manifesto, “working diligently to eliminate themselves.”
Solanas thought Warhol was trying to steal her SCUM Manifesto.
At some point, Warhol misplaced the manuscript of her play (it later surfaced in a forgotten trunk, Diaz says), but Solanas instead came to believe that he was seeking to steal her intellectual property. In the weeks leading up to the shooting, Solanas called Warhol’s office repeatedly with threats and demands about her manuscript, until he stopped taking her calls. “She obviously knew that Andy would borrow ideas, or steal ideas,” Diaz says, “and so she became paranoid that he didn’t in fact lose the play, but wanted to keep it, claim it, and make it his own.”
On June 3, 1968, Solanas showed up at Warhol’s new office at 33 Union Square West; he had moved from the Factory in Midtown to more upscale digs earlier that year. With a .32 Beretta, she shot both Warhol and Mario Amaya, the London art gallery owner he was meeting with, then left the building.
Warhol was briefly declared dead and had to wear a surgical corset for the rest of his life.
Two bullets from Solanas’ gun tore through Warhol’s stomach, liver, spleen, esophagus and both lungs. He was briefly declared dead at one point, but doctors were able to revive him. He spent two months in the hospital recuperating from various surgeries, and would be forced to wear a surgical corset for the rest of his life to hold his organs in place.
Amaya wasn’t badly wounded.
“He had too much control over my life.”
Several hours after the shooting, Solanas approached a policeman in Times Square and handed him her .32 semi-automatic as well as a .22 revolver. “He had too much control over my life,” she reportedly told the cop, a headline that was later splashed over the front cover of the New York Daily News. Solanas underwent several rounds of psychiatric evaluation and received a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. Despite this, she was found competent to stand trial, and pleaded guilty to assault charges. A judge sentenced her to three years, including time served, and she was released in late 1971.
Even after that, Fah writes, Solanas continued to believe she could change the world with her SCUM Manifesto. As her mental health continued to decline, however, she became increasingly paranoid and unstable. She spent her last years in a single-occupancy welfare hotel in San Francisco, where she died alone in 1988.
Warhol was left with a fear of hospitals, that ultimately took his life.
The shooting had a major impact on his life and work, even beyond the considerable physical scars it left. He became much more guarded, abandoning much of his filmmaking and more controversial art and focusing more on business, founding what became Interview magazine in 1969. Warhol had showed interest in death and violence in his earlier work, including a series paintings of death and disaster ripped from the headlines, like car crashes and electric chairs. Post-shooting, he revisited the theme of death, painting a series of skulls and one of guns, a weapon with which he now had an intensely personal connection. “I said that I wasn’t creative since I was shot, because after that I stopped seeing creepy people,” Warhol wrote in his diary in November 1978.
More importantly, the shooting intensified Warhol’s fear and loathing of hospitals, though he embraced alternative health treatments like healing crystals. This reticence produced fatal results on February 21, 1987, when Warhol died of cardiac arrest suffered after gallbladder surgery, a procedure that he had delayed for several years due to his fear of hospitals. “He could have gotten [the surgery] scheduled and done earlier, had he been more preventative about his health,” Diaz says. “But until the end, he avoided hospitals. He was always nervous about getting sick. I think death always made him nervous, but of course, having almost died once really escalated that.”
Andy Warhol ( / ˈ w ɔːr h ɒ l /  born Andrew Warhola August 6, 1928 – February 22, 1987) was an American artist, film director, and producer who was a leading figure in the visual art movement known as pop art. His works explore the relationship between artistic expression, advertising, and celebrity culture that flourished by the 1960s, and span a variety of media, including painting, silkscreening, photography, film, and sculpture. Some of his best known works include the silkscreen paintings Campbell's Soup Cans (1962) and Marilyn Diptych (1962), the experimental films Empire (1964) and Chelsea Girls (1966), and the multimedia events known as the Exploding Plastic Inevitable (1966–67).
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Warhol initially pursued a successful career as a commercial illustrator. After exhibiting his work in several galleries in the late 1950s, he began to receive recognition as an influential and controversial artist. His New York studio, The Factory, became a well-known gathering place that brought together distinguished intellectuals, drag queens, playwrights, Bohemian street people, Hollywood celebrities, and wealthy patrons.    He promoted a collection of personalities known as Warhol superstars, and is credited with inspiring the widely used expression "15 minutes of fame". In the late 1960s he managed and produced the experimental rock band The Velvet Underground and founded Interview magazine. He authored numerous books, including The Philosophy of Andy Warhol and Popism: The Warhol Sixties. He lived openly as a gay man before the gay liberation movement. In June 1968, he was almost killed by radical feminist Valerie Solanas who shot him inside his studio. 
After gallbladder surgery, Warhol died of cardiac arrhythmia in February 1987 at the age of 58.
Warhol has been the subject of numerous retrospective exhibitions, books, and feature and documentary films. The Andy Warhol Museum in his native city of Pittsburgh, which holds an extensive permanent collection of art and archives, is the largest museum in the United States dedicated to a single artist. Many of his creations are very collectible and highly valuable. The highest price ever paid for a Warhol painting is US$105 million for a 1963 canvas titled Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) his works include some of the most expensive paintings ever sold.  A 2009 article in The Economist described Warhol as the "bellwether of the art market". 
The assassination attempt on Andy Warhol today, 53 years ago
Valerie Solanas in February 1967 | wikimedia Andy Warhol.
Dennis Stone/Shutterstock | Via ART News
At the time he was shot, Andy Warhol was one of the most recognized and popular artists in America. On June 3, 1968, Valerie Solanas entered Andy Warhol’s sixth-floor office at 33 Union Square West in New York City. With a .32 Beretta, she shot both Warhol and Mario Amaya, the London art gallery owner he was meeting with, then left the building. The latter was not badly wounded but Warhol took a bullet that tore through his stomach, liver, spleen, oesophagus and both lungs. Briefly declared dead at one point, doctors somehow revived him. He spent two months in the hospital recuperating and wore a surgical corset for the rest of his life to hold his organs in place.
Solanas surrendered to a young cop at Times Square shortly later. Later, she was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. She was released in late 1971. Eventually, she died alone in 1988, 14 months after Warhol passed on.
Cover of SCUM Manifesto (Verso Press edition) | wikimedia
Prior to this incident, she called herself a radical feminist and is best known for writing the SCUM Manifesto (Society for Cutting Up Men). She had been trying to get Warhol to produce her play Up Your Ass he had at some point given her a scene in one of his films, I, a Man, for $25. She later came to believe that Warhol (who had not yet returned her play’s manuscript as he had seemingly misplaced it) was stealing her ideas. He had also stopped taking her incessant calls, fuelling her paranoia. She later cited “he controlled my life” as reason for her actions.
The Daily News on June 4, 1968 | NY Daily News via Getty Images | Via biography.com The Daily News on June 4, 1968 | NY Daily News via Getty Images | Via history.com
The shooting had a major impact on Warhol’s life and work. He became much more guarded, abandoning much of his filmmaking and more controversial art and focusing more on business. His fear and loathing of hospitals intensified hugely, though he embraced alternative health treatments like healing crystals. This reticence produced fatal results on February 21, 1987, when Warhol died of cardiac arrest suffered after gallbladder surgery, a procedure that he had delayed for several years due to his aversion.
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Art Of The Day: Pulp Fiction
Enjoying the texture, softness and flexibility in the handling of paper pulp, artist Sreyashi Saha has created the work titled ‘Open Window’ (48x30 inches). Here, she presents a triptych of renditions — while one centres around natural elements, the two others are somewhat caught up in the silhouettes and basic colours of the urban jungle, as the sun sets over them.
Check out more work by the artist here on Abir Space.
- Explore By Artists
Solanas was drawn to the lifestyle of New York City artists
As she formulated the ideas that would show up in her later works, Solanas was smitten by the allure of the bohemian lifestyle of the artists, poets and musicians who flocked to New York City&aposs Greenwich Village, and she decided to join them in the summer of 1962.
She initially lived in a women&aposs residence hotel on the Upper West Side and worked in a coffee house, but eventually became a Greenwich Village fixture without ever really finding a community. She bounced between the Hotel Earle, the Chelsea Hotel and the Village Plaza Hotel, lugging her old typewriter everywhere she went, always hustling for customers to pay for her writing, conversation or sex.
In 1965, Solanas completed her first major work: A play called Up Your Ass (Full title: Up Your Ass or From the Cradle to the Boat or The Big Suck or Up from the Slime), about a street-smart lesbian prostitute and her off-color associates. She tried finding a producer for the play, even sending it to the city&aposs resident celebrity artist, Andy Warhol (who she hadn&apost formally met yet), but no one wanted to touch the overtly lewd material.
Valerie Solanas and her assassination attempt on Andy Warhol
Pioneering American artist Andy Warhol was one of the most influential figures of the 20th century. The primary creative force behind the Pop Art movement, Warhol had an undeniable impact on celebrity culture as well as the world of advertising. The legendary artist passed away at the age of 58 due to cardiac arrhythmia but his life was almost cut short in 1968 by a sudden attempt on his life.
On 3rd June of 1968, radical feminist writer Valerie Solanas brought two guns along with her into Warhol’s office with the intention of ending the artist’s life. Although things did not turn out quite the way she wanted them to, Solanas’ name was permanently recorded in the annals of history due to the events of that day. Born in New Jersey, Valerie Solanas had endured a difficult childhood during which she was sexually abused by her father as well as her grandfather. It had a memorable impact on her later views and shaped her ideological positions.
Solanas studied psychology in college and wrote the famous feminist doctrine, the SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) Manifesto, which is now a crucial part of her legacy in popular culture. In it, she argued that the only way for women to achieve a utopian condition in this overwhelmingly patriarchal framework is to “overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and eliminate the male sex.” Solanas’ radical conceptualisation of a more active brand of feminism has been credited by many as a crucial evolutionary step in the fight for women’s liberation.
After moving to New York in the mid-1960s, Solanas had to beg and take on a job as a sex worker in order to support herself. Around this time, she wrote a play titled Up Your Ass (1965) which followed the life of a sex worker who hated men and even killed one of them as the logical conclusion of her hatred. Two years later, Solanas confronted Warhol outside his famous studio, The Factory, and asked him to produce Up Your Ass. Although Warhol was generous enough in offering to read her work because it “well typed”. However, he later claimed that he had lost it which led Solanas to believe that the artist had stolen her work. As compensation for losing her play (although many reported that Warhol found it to be too dirty), the artist even hired her to appear in his 1967 film I, a Man.
The Factory had many “hyper-feminine” women who enjoyed Warhol’s company and Solanas felt that she was excluded by them due to her androgynous nature. She was tired of the amount of control that she claimed Warhol had over her life and became paranoid, demanding money from people while worrying about the possibility of Warhol and Maurice Girodias (who had offered to publish the SCUM Manifesto) hatching plans against her. Taking matters into her own hands, she decided that it was time for her to decide her own fate and stop letting men control the little agency she had. Solanas bought a gun for herself in early 1968 to prepare for what was about to come.
According to official accounts, Solanas was well-aware that the assassination of Andy Warhol was nothing more than a publicity attempt. While threatening producer Margo Feiden at gunpoint, she said: “Yes, you will produce the play because I’ll shoot Andy Warhol and that will make me famous and the play famous, and then you’ll produce it.” Although Fieden reported this to the authorities, nobody took her seriously and dismissed the entire thing. That very day, Solanas watched and waited outside The Factory in anticipation of her target. Paul Morrissey tried to get rid of her by lying to her about Warhol not coming in that day but she rode up and down in the elevators until Warhol walked in.
Valerie Solanas accompanied Warhol to his offices and stood her ground even though Morrissey threatened to physically assault her. When Warhol received a telephone call, she shot at him thrice (missing the target with the first two bullets). She also shot art critic Mario Amaya and was going to continue her rampage but her gun jammed and she left, leaving behind her address book, a gun and her sanitary napkin which James Martin Harding considered to be an important part of her assassination attempt and compared it to a theatrical performance – “attention to basic feminine experiences that were [publicly] taboo and tacitly elided within avant-garde circles.”
Considering her work to be done, Solanas turned herself in and was sentenced to three years in prison. It was during this time that she was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. After a five-hour surgery, Warhol survived the damage to his lungs, stomach and other vital organs. Despite all the chaos, Solanas maintained that she was right in doing what she did and even declared so in court. She felt that it was her moral obligation to do so because she erroneously thought that Warhol owned all the rights to her artistic output. Solanas famously said, “I consider that a moral act. And I consider it immoral that I missed. I should have done target practice.”
The assassination attempt had a profound impact on Warhol’s life as well as his art. He lived in constant fear that Solanas would come after him again which made him appreciate the immediacy of life even more. After being released from prison, Solanas did stalk Warhol and other figures involved with The Factory which led to her being arrested again. However, none of it came close to the temporary popularity that she had gained due to shooting Warhol and she slowly became obscure and was allegedly homeless at one point. Despite everything, Solanas maintained her belief in her brand of radical feminism and the SCUM Manifesto right up till the end of her life.
As for Warhol, he utilised the terrifying ordeal to re-evaluate his own ideas about the human condition: “Before I was shot, I always thought that I was more half-there than all-there—I always suspected that I was watching TV instead of living life. People sometimes say that the way things happen in movies is unreal, but actually it’s the way things happen in life that’s unreal. The movies make emotions look so strong and real, whereas when things really do happen to you, it’s like watching television—you don’t feel anything. Right when I was being shot and ever since, I knew that I was watching television. The channels switch, but it’s all television.”
Why did Andy Warhol die?
Who was Andy Warhol?
Andy Warhol was a renowned pop artist. He is a Pennsylvanian native, having been born in Pittsburgh on August 6, 1928. His parents were Ondrej Warhola, an emigrant coal worker, and Julia. Warhol feared hospitals and doctors since his childhood, and for this reason, he would be bedridden when he falls sick.
He completed his graduation in 1945 from Schenley High School. Warhol was a special boy, and he won multiple awards, such as Scholastic Art and a Writing Award. He wanted to become an artist thus studied art education at Pittsburgh University. He also joined Carnegie Mellon University to study commercial art and graduated in 1949 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in pictorial design.
Warhol was a member of the Modern Dance Club and Beaux Arts Society while still studying and the art director of a campus magazine called Cano.
Moving to New York
He moved to New York immediately afterward to pursue his dreams and started a magazine illustration and advertising job. Andy Warhol was also a movie director and producer who helped launch the careers of many artists. But what influenced his career as an artist was an encounter with Valerie Solanos, a radical feminist, an author, and a writer.
The events leading to Warhol’s death
Shooting accident in 1968
Andy Warhol’s death cannot be mentioned without the shooting incident in 1968. Warhol made a career out of photographing depravity and calling it truth 1 , as well as director and producer, and that is how his path with Solanas – his shooter crossed.
Solanas was a writer and feminist, and founder of the Society for Cutting Up Men and the only group member. The feminist had written a play and wanted Warhol to produce it for her. Warhol passed it, citing that the play had skimmed the satirical and extremely scatological script that was utterly obscene. He suspected Ms. Solanas was working for the police on ‘some kind of entrapment 2 .’
The pair had little to nothing in common. They wouldn’t even be able to be mentioned in the same breath today. However, Solanas would change the life of Warhol significantly, but not for the better. On June 3, 1968, she shot Warhol and critically wounded him that he was pronounced dead in the emergency room. She was outraged by Warhol’s rejection of her script and that he lost the copy of the play that later reappeared in an abandoned trunk.
Accusations against Warhol
Valerie Solanas believed that Andy Warhol wanted to steal her SCUM Manifesto after Warhol misplaced the manuscript. Before the shooting, Solanas had called Warhol’s office on numerous occasions, churning out threats and demanding that he return the document. Warhol started ignoring her calls. This made her believe that he would borrow ideas from her script and that he didn’t actually lose the text but tried to use it for his own career.
Solanas was fame-hungry, and the shooting brought her all the attention she wanted. Consequently, she was disowned by other feminist organizations such as the National Organization for Women, which also disavowed her agenda.
Warhol’s recovery & Mentally affected by shooting
Warhol spent two months in the hospital, nursing the gun injuries, which affected his lungs, spleen, esophagus, liver, and stomach. This forced him to wear a surgical corset his entire life to support his inner organs from falling out. The injuries from the two shots from Solanas were so severe that doctors had to cut open Warhol’s chest and massage his heart to revive it.
The incidence also affected Warhol mentally. He was recorded by the New York Times saying 3 ,
I was shot, and everything is such a dream to me. I don’t know what anything is about. Like I don’t even know whether or not I’m really alive or – whether I died. It’s sad.
It was this experience that further rendered Warhol afraid of hospitals that even refused surgery in 1973 after being diagnosed with a gallstone. The doctor said 4 , “He was convinced if he was hospitalized, he would die.”
Despite being afraid of doctors and hospitals, Warhol still got treatment using alternative means such as healing crystals. It seems Warhol was right after all. He put off the procedure until his gallbladder became infected, and when he underwent surgery, he died the next day.
Effects of the gunshots 19 years later
The wounds from the bullets in 1968 were severe. Warhol did hire a private coach who helped him to exercise fairly regularly. But it is fair to conclude that the gunshot wounds, though inflicted on him 19 years before his death, play a role. Jose Diaz – the chief curator of Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, stated 5 :
He could have gotten the surgery scheduled and done earlier had he been more preventative about his health.
We know from medical records that Warhol never recovered fully from the gunshot wounds. This left him with “a lifetime of trouble eating and swallowing 6 ,” alongside a large hernia that made him wear girdles to hold in his bowels. For these reasons, during the operation, Dr. Thorjarnarson had also repair Warhol’s abdominal wall.
The operation was successful, but later, Warhol’s heat experienced some complications resulting from “ventricular fibrillation.” This still shocks many, given that it was just routine surgery. However, according to new research, the complications are not that surprising. Richard Avedon – Portrait of Andy Warhol, 1969, photo: avedonfoundation.org Richard Avedon – Portrait of Andy Warhol, 1969, photo: avedonfoundation.org Richard Avedon – Portrait of Andy Warhol, 1969, photo: avedonfoundation.org
Warhol died in Manhattan at 6:32 am on Feb 22, 1987, less than 24 hours after undergoing successful surgery. He lived to be 58 years old. Up to this day, the actual cause of his death is not known. Records on the case are labeled “Pending Further Investigation.”
According to his dermatologist, after Warhol had a successful surgery, he woke up and made plans to appear at a new ballet performance the following evening. Warhol was placed under a morphine drip but never regained consciousness. Dr. Hunter believes that the doctors and post-mortem examination could not figure out the cause of his death.
Analysis by Dr. Stewart Redmond Walsh
Many medical researchers have developed an interest in Andy Warhol’s death. In his interview with The New York Times, Stewart Redmond Walsh, a vascular surgery at the National University of Ireland, Galway, said the tragic death of Andy Warhol is not surprising. He explained 7 :
When a sick body goes through the trauma of a major operation, the stress on the entire system, including the heart, can sometimes be fatal.
Warhol, Dr. Walsh said in a phone interview, ‘was unlucky,’ but, according to the doctor, the artist’s bad luck should be thought of as “less like lightning than like being hit by a car while crossing the street.”
Analysis by Dr. John Ryan
Andy Warhol’s death has been linked with routine gallbladder surgery for many decades. However, a medical expert suggested that the death of the legendary pop artist shouldn’t have taken the world by surprise. In an interview with The New York Times, Dr. John Ryan stated 8 : “This was major, major surgery – not routine – in a very sick person.”
In the past few years, Ryan, a retired surgeon and medical historian, has been studying Andy Warhol’s medical history. Ryan presented his findings from the research at the annual Pacific Coast Surgical Association meeting.
It was revealed that gallbladder complications ran in Andy Warhol’s family, and he had been seriously ill for months before his death. Warhol was a workaholic and combined with his fear of hospitals. It meant that his health was never a priority to him. When he was compelled to visit the hospital at last for a surgery, Warhol’s gallbladder was already filled with gangrene. According to his doctor, Bjorn Thorbjarnarson, it fell into pieces as he removed it.
As Ryan reports 9 , Warhol’s high-paced life contributed to some extent to his gallbladder issues:
Warhol was dehydrated and also emaciated from barely having eaten in the previous month had for years been taking a daily dose of speed and was still suffering from the effects of a brush with death in 1968, when he was shot by enraged hanger-on, Valerie Solanas. Only a brilliant surgeon and brilliant luck had saved his life then – he had been declared dead in the emergency room and had nine damaged organs.
Analysis by David Burdon
In his biography of Warhol, David Burdon stated that Warhol’s death might have been caused by over-hydration.
According to later reports, the hospital’s medical and nursing staff neglected to look in on him periodically and to monitor his intravenous fluid intake and urinary output. No one adequately supervised the private-duty nurse, whose incomplete notes failed to record the patient’s blood pressure, pulse rate, and other vital signs, as well as his dosages of morphine and other medications. As a result, Warhol’s over hydration went unnoticed.
New York Times article, 1991
Bourdon’s assertions could have been influenced by the reports from a multimillion-dollar court case. It was filed by the estate of Warhol against the hospital after the controversies surrounding his death.
This is what the New York Times reported 11 about the lawsuit,
The [estate’s] lawyer, Bruce Clark, said that New York Hospital negligently pumped more than twice the required volume of fluids into Mr. Warhol when he underwent gallbladder surgery five years ago and that the resulting internal pressure causes his death from heart failure.
A piece on the New York Times by Ronald Sullivan “Care Faulted in the Death of Warhol” on December 5, 1991, reported: “Andy Warhol was 5 feet 11 inches tall but only weighed 128 pounds,” Mr. Clark said 12 .
He was anemic and undernourished. However, his doctor said in his admitting papers that he was in “good” health. He continued 13 ,
His undernourished body had a capacity of from 3 to 4 quarts of blood, but they kept pumping fluids into him without making sure anything was coming out, and then they increased the intake.
According to the article, the records from Andy Warhol’s doctor indicated that he was in “good” health when he visited the hospital.
Routine surgery? Over-hydration & Other factors
So, why did his gallbladder surgery termed as routine? The phrase meant that the operation was routine for a healthy individual. The same procedure that Warhol underwent would only require an overnight stay in the hospital today, and in the 1980s, it could take up to 5 days.
It is hard to pin the blame on over-hydration alone as what might have caused the artist’s death. It could also be the operation itself that put a strain on Warhol’s heart. There are other factors too that could have played a part in Warhol’s heart failure. Based on the majority of reports about the artist’s death, it was caused by “ventricular fibrillation,” which is linked to cardiac arrest.
According to the American Heart Association, the major causes of ventricular fibrillation are damage to the heart muscle due to a heart attack or insufficient blood flow to the heart muscle, drug toxicity, cardiomyopathy problems with the aorta, or sepsis. However, it is not recorded anywhere that Warhol had any of these symptoms. Richard Avedon – Portrait of Andy Warhol, 1969, photo: avedonfoundation.org
Drugs / Speed
There were also some claims that Warhol took speed, a form of synthetic drugs. However, that is highly unlikely because amphetamine-based drugs are usually subscribed to individuals with behavioral conditions like Attention Deficit Disorder. They typically don’t cause long-lasting physical problems, including the amphetamine-based medications given to children who have ADD and are over six years old, for example, Dexedrine.
The mistake of the hospital
Warhol weighed more than 10 pounds less than the required weight of a man his height. The estate attorney tried to demonstrate how over-hydration could have played a role in Warhol’s death by conflating body fluids with blood capacity. However, the results weren’t the same. But, shockingly, the hospital failed to monitor Warhol’s fluids – if the reports are accurate, as this was an obligation on the side of the hospital because it is standard procedure for hospitals. Every patient admitted to a hospital should have their be fluids monitored surprisingly, they did not do it for Warhol.
Warhol estate and the hospital agreed to settle things out of court, thus the hospital paying Warhol estate $3 million in compensation. As the matter was settled out of court, it is still unknown if over-hydration played a role in the artist’s cardiac arrest, which killed him.
On 22 February 1987, the world of art was dealt a massive blow when one of its brightest stars, Andy Warhol, died unexpectedly at New York Hospital, after making a positive recovery from a routine surgery. Before his diagnosis, Warhol had delayed having his frequent gallbladder problems checked. Despite his untimely death, it seems like he is still alive. His works still dominate the art market, with one-sixth of contemporary art sales belonging to Warhol’s works.
Warhol wasn’t a trendsetter
Andy Warhol described himself as a pimp, a nose picker, and a water guzzler. By this self-description, he was among the most various, intricate, and remarkable talents the art industry has ever produced. His influence permeates both high art and popular culture.
Warhol’s vision practically created today’s celebrity-obsessed culture. He seized the future by merely responding to the environment and time he was living in. Warhol wasn’t a trendsetter. He was a trend. He was someone that showed no sign of being outdated.
Yet when he stepped into the New York art scene, many people refused to accept him as an influential artist and bashed him for being too media, too cool – attributes that paradoxically, are now celebrated in a modern artist.
How Warhol polarized the art world
Warhol left a legacy that has never been matched by anyone, almost 33 years since he passed. There is Andy Warhol, and then there is modern art. It was he that created the concept of “artist as a brand” by utilizing commercial brands. He turned into an icon by simply placing himself next to icons. When his studio began to be the trendiest place to hang out and began to welcome numerous ready-made casts, he immediately turned it into a live film set as well as a hit record. However, he refuted the claims that he was making a paradoxically insincere statement about popular culture. He sincerely wanted everything to be about the surface.
For this reason, he was the most polarizing figure in the world of art he created work that lacked any depth, but how he made it had enough power to halt the art history in its tracks. The subjects of his pieces were ordinary and quotidian. Still, they were also influential and visually engaging, each very painstakingly chosen and (re)presented if his subject matter was off-the-cuff, then his artistic judgment was not. Formally, his art strictly adhered to the “rules” of minimalism – he uses distinct lines and grids, uses repetition using different colorways, and let accidents in the process to describe each work.
A pioneer of film & video art
There is a consensus that Warhol’s films were, perhaps, his most significant artistic accomplishment. He used “real” people instead of actors, used filmic devices that juxtaposed with the fly-on-the-wall approach, and created films that involved as little dialogue as possible and as the limited plot as possible. When Andy Warhol was asked why he moved from paintings to films, he modestly answered:
It is easier to do it than painting.
His decisions on how to make his films influence the art world also filtered through into the mainstream culture. Decades later, his back catalog endures generating ideas. Will Young’s polished promo for ‘Light My Fire’ was a tribute to Andy Warhol’s muse Edie Sedgwick, similarly directed as Cia Manhattan.
Warhol made it easier for the audience to appreciate film and video art by making it less challenging to separate it from the experience of watching television because of the expectation of being entertained. But with Andy Warhol’s screen tests, they instantly validate the medium in which they were made. The films, roughly four-minute-long, include title direction. Thus there are similarities in what the viewer sees in terms of the lighting and composition, but dissimilar in how his different subjects responded – exhibiting different tones of confrontation, anxiety, or nervousness. His film-making style, stark lighting, then projecting back at a prolonged speed, flattered his subjects to a juncture where it didn’t matter who they were. The function of the characters in the film was to reveal the aesthetic potential of film to create a short (4-minute), living portrait. The fact that you are watching the future TV icons adds to the experience.
Warhol’s artistic legacy is more than just artists sharing a comparable aesthetic or attitude towards their artworks. He expanded the boundaries of what is considered art, how artists could approach making artwork and exhibiting, and how an artist’s image could be vital to the work they created.
Warhol’s works presented an intriguing new form of artistic expression. Pop Art was his brainchild from the 1960s and showcased a collection of artworks that concentrated mainly on mass-produced commercial products. In 1962, for instance, Warhol displayed his famous works of Campbell’s soup cans. After that, he went on to exhibit works showcasing coca-cola bottles and hamburgers as well as the paintings of quirky TV stars, including Marilyn Monroe, Mick Jagger, and Elizabeth Taylor.
The success of his paintings can be attributed to his use of several mediums, including silk screening, photography, and printing. To this date, Warhol’s works are never out of circulation in museums and galleries. And just like his artworks, the artists he influenced are more visible than ever. In 2012, Gillian Wearing – the artist who photographed herself dressed as Warhol, showcased a retrospective of her pieces ar the Whitechapel, while another artist who used to hang out at Andy Warhol’s studio, the Factory, also launched a retrospective at Hayward in London, United Kingdom.
I think Warhol changed film and documentary forever. He was completely seminal in that area. His extremely long takes, his exploration of improvisation between fiction and reality came about through his playful and irreverent manner and gave the world new ways of looking.
A mentor & a threat
Andy Warhol meant a lot of different things to different people. For instance, for the post-war Abstract Expressionist old guards, he was seen as a threat for many upcoming artists of the 1980s, he was a mentor for many within the media, he was seen as a sensationalist seer.
Artist Sean Lennon released a song in honor of Andy Warhol for the exhibit “Letters to Andy Warhol” in New York. “Being raised by a single mom, I was always looking for some kind of paternal influence,” Sean Lennon told the Rolling Stone of Warhol, whom he had met as a child. “Andy was like an eccentric uncle to me. He taught me a lot about art and humor.”
However, despite his familiarity with the artist, Lennon was initially reluctant to record a song inspired by Warhol.
“When they asked me to write a song about him, I was hesitant at first, since [David> Bowie already wrote the quintessential Warhol song,” he states. He eventually agreed to pen the track, he counted on the help of bandmate and girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl and “tried approaching it more like a surreal biography.”
The song was titled Love and Warhol.
Money, sex, fame, death
Warhol’s radical idea that the day to day items could be art, ranging from the washing powder boxes to Campbell’s soup cans, significantly galvanized the world of art during the 1960s.
Cultural Historian Jon Savage recalls the impact of Warhol in the 1960s to late 1980s in response to the judgment of art critic Robert Hughes by saying:
I went to see his 1989 retrospective at MoMA. You walked into the 60s rooms, and there it all was- America. Money, sex, fame, death. Warhol summed up, defined, and, in many ways, embodied the world in which we now live. Everyone thinks he’s emotionless and soulless, but the cumulative effect of seeing all the Marilyns and Orange Disasters is extremely powerful – it’s not just a mirror.
Warhol left his mark in many more ways than his actual work.
According to Stuart Corner, Warhol’s studio The Factory blended individuals from across the social spectrum. “You would have somebody like Valerie Solanas, a German countess, a bum from the Bowery, and some artists from suburban America who’d come to New York to make it.”
Shiner describes Warhol as continuously revolutionizing and being ahead of the curve. She says that the artist took pleasure in embracing new methods, intensely pushing the envelope.
“To put it simply, he thought out of the box – and his creative explorations really opened the door to other artists who would subsequently enjoy the complete freedom to experiment and discover,” Shiner states, adding that Andy Warhol’s extraordinary and diverse output set an unbelievable standard for future generations of artists.
When Andy Warhol died in 1987, he left behind his vast collection inventory of work to the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. To have the entire collection cataloged, archived, photographed, and digitized, the Foundation began a journey that is still on-going more than 30 years later. Currently, there are over 28,000 photographs on the Artstor Digital Library.
Michael Hermann of Andy Warhol Foundation believes that Warhol’s legacy belongs to the world.
From Consumerism To Catastrophe: How Warhol’s Brush With Death Disrupted his Life and Career
On the afternoon of June 3, 1968, Andy Warhol was shot twice by radical feminist Valerie Solanas in his office. Solanas said Andy had “too much control over her life”, and that she was on a mission to get it back. Luckily, Warhol survived the attack, though this incident caused him to lose a part of himself that day. This tragic event changed the trajectory of Andy Warhol’s life and career forever.
Prior to being shot, Warhol was a successful and popular commercial artist, famous for his pop-art style images of consumer goods and Hollywood stars. Although Andy had already touched on topics of catastrophe and mortality, after being shot, his fascination with impermanence and death intensified. Warhol began to revisit this theme, now using his own perspective from his close encounter with death.
In 1962, Andy Warhol began his Death and Disaster series. This collection of artworks contained reproductions of the same images, with a variety of different monochrome colors saturating the photos. The majority of these images were taken from his newspaper cuttings, which depicted tragic incidents and disasters.
Warhol’s Death and Disaster series includes some of his most controversial works, which explore the topics of capital punishment and tragic accidents shown in the media. Two examples from this portfolio which explore these themes include Twelve Electric Chairs and Race Riot, both from 1964.
Warhol was also interested in the public’s reaction to the deaths of high profile individuals such as Marilyn Monroe and John F. Kennedy. When Gene Swenson asked why he started his “Death” pictures in 1963, Andy replied:
“I guess it was the big plane crash picture, the front page of the newspaper: 129 dies. I was also painting the Marilyns. I realized that everything I was doing must have been Death. It was Christmas or Labor Day – a holiday – and every time you turned on the radio they said something like ‘4 million are doing to die.’ That started it.”
The main purpose behind this series was to bring light to the idea of desensitization in our society surrounding topics such as death and disaster. Warhol once said in his biography, “When you see a gruesome picture over and over again, it doesn’t really have any effect.” Through these works, Warhol was commenting on the numbness within our society and culture surrounding these gruesome topics, while also testing the limits himself to see what would be accepted in the art world.
Besides his Death and Disaster series, Warhol worked with more lighthearted subject matters, such as his 32 Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962), and Green Coca-Cola Bottles (1962). Prior to 1968, Andy Warhol was on the rise of becoming one of the most well-known artists, exploring ideas of consumerism and advertising. This all changed after being shot by Solanas.
In 1967, Valerie Solanas founded the Society for Cutting Up Men, which she used to market her radical feminist agenda. As the sole member of the society, she self-published the SCUM Manifesto, which reads:
“Life in this society being at best an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic minded, responsible, thrill seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and eliminate the male sex.”
In this manifesto, Solanas envisioned a world without men.
Valerie was a player in the Factory scene, where she was introduced to Warhol’s world. In 1965, Valerie continuously asked Warhol if he would produce a play she had written titled Up Your Ass. Warhol rejected her offer, and at some point, lost the manuscript Solanas had given him.
In the weeks prior to the incident, Solanas repetitively called Warhol’s office demanding he return her missing manuscript. She became convinced he was trying to steal her manifesto, which led to her aversion for the popular artist.
On June 3, 1968, Solanas showed up to Warhol’s office at 33 Union Square West, and shot Warhol and Mario Amaya, a London art gallery owner. She committed this violent attack on Warhol because of the outrage she felt after her offer was rejected by the artist. The two bullets which hit Warhol tore through major organs, critically wounding him. Although Warhol was briefly declared dead in the emergency room, both he and Amaya miraculously survived the attack.
Warhol was rushed to the hospital after the assasination attempt and was legally pronounced dead at 4:51 pm. Lucky for Warhol, vascular surgeon Guiseppe Rossi was on duty that day. The determined doctor was not ready to give up on his patient, who he had originally thought was a homeless man. Dr. Rossi performed a five and a half hour long procedure on Warhol, repairing the damage done to the artist’s body.
After massaging his heart and ordering a blood transfusion, Dr. Rossi successfully revived Warhol. Little did the doctor know that he had just miraculously saved the life of famous artist, Andy Warhol.
In an effort to repay his doctor for his heroic work, Andy Warhol sent Dr. Rossi a selection of prints. This thank you gift included a complete set of Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup II screen prints, which are some of his most notable works. Andy Warhol’s Tomato-Beef Noodle O’s from his Campbell’s Soup II portfolio is one of the many prints that was gifted to the doctor. This one of a kind print with a unique history is now for sale at the Revolver Gallery.
After turning herself in to a Times Square policeman, she reportedly told the cop, “He had too much control over my life.” This claim made its way to the cover of the New York Daily news. Solanas later pled guilty to assault charges and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. She was sentenced to three years in prison, and was released in late 1971.
After the assassination attempt, Warhol spent two months in the hospital. He also had to wear a surgical corset for the rest of his life, due to the severity of the gunshot wounds. This incident also left Andy with difficulty eating and swallowing, among a number of other complications.
Richard Avedon photographed Warhol’s scarred torso in 1969. His head is not shown in the composition, but instead the image is focused in on the physical damage done to Warhol’s body after being shot. These powerful images document this tragic event and its long lasting effects.
Not only did the attack affect Warhol’s physical health, but it also had an impact on his mental stability. After the incident, Warhol wrote in his 1968 biography:
“When you hurt another person, you never know how much it pains. Since I was shot, everything is such a dream to me. I don’t know what anything is about. Like, I don’t know whether I’m alive or whether I died. I wasn’t afraid before. And having been dead once, I shouldn’t feel fear. But I am afraid. I don’t understand why.”
After being shot by Valerie Solanas in 1968, Warhol’s fear of dying was amplified. This incident caused Warhol to revisit the themes of death and violence, but now by observing the possibility of his own mortality.
Warhol created a series of Gun prints, which was created in reaction to his feelings around gun violence and his own personal experience with it. Warhol’s Gun from 1981, shows a weapon similar to the .22 snub-nosed pistol that Solanas used to shoot him. Warhol created these prints to reflect on his feelings towards his own mortality at the mercy of the weapon.
Yet another portfolio which came after the shooting includes hisSkulls seriesfrom 1976. This collection consists of six canvases with the same photographic image of a human skull. The image which Skulls is based on was taken by one of Warhol’s assistants, Ronnie Cutrone. These works were created in the Factory, where Warhol rolled out the unstretched canvas and got to work. The background was saturated in bright colored synthetic polymer paint, with the skull image screen-printed on top.
After being shot in 1968, Andy Warhol’s work took a drastic turn. His Skull 158 from 1976 is a prime example of this shift in his subject matter. This work is one of four screenprints from the artist’s Skulls series, which each vary in color and composition. As a practice in the art of “Vanitas”, Warhol’s skulls serve as a reminder of human mortality and the shortness of life.
Warhol’s skull work is a reference to his fear of death, and how he came to terms with his own mortality.
Not only did the attack by Solanas have an effect on the artist’s subject matter, but this incident also caused Warhol to become much more private and reserved. Warhol left behind some of his work to focus on the entrepreneurial side of his career.
The shooting also intensified his fears of hospitals and illness, leading him to seek alternative medicine and treatments. This hesitance caused him to delay appointments and procedures, which may have eventually led to his demise. His doctor even said, “He was convinced if he was hospitalized he would die.” On February 21, 1987, Warhol suffered a heart attack after gallbladder surgery. He died the following day, while resting in the hospital. The bullet which hit Warhol’s gallbladder killed him 19 years after the attack.
Although darker subject matters such as death and disaster were nothing new to Warhol, after being shot in 1968, his fascination with dying and impermanence greatly intensified. Warhol became obsessed with the idea of his own undeniable mortality, which led him to revisit this theme in his artwork.
This life changing event altered the course of Warhol’s career. The artist’s work shifted from colorful pop art images of soup cans and flowers, to skulls and freak accidents. Although this change in his career was brought forth by an extremely unfortunate event, the works he created after this incident have become some of the most famous and iconic modern works of art. As Warhol once said:
“The idea is not to live forever, but to create something that will.” – Andy Warhol
A Manuscript, a Confrontation, a ShootingDavid Goldman/For The New York Times Margo Feiden will discuss her 1968 conversation with Valerie Solanas — the day Ms. Solanas shot Andy Warhol — at the National Arts Club on Tuesday night.
Forty-one years later, Margo Feiden finally opened a folder containing a manuscript that had sat on her bookshelf since the day Andy Warhol was shot.
She had put it there after spending three hours with Valerie Solanas, who was on the fringes of Warhol’s circle, she said. Ms. Solanas had written a play with an unprintable title and had shown up, uninvited, at Ms. Feiden’s apartment, unkempt and irrational, hoping to talk her into producing it.
Ms. Feiden, who later became an art dealer and the agent for the caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, said in a recent interview that she told Ms. Solanas she would not stage it. She said Ms. Solanas countered, “Oh, yes you will, because I’m going to shoot Andy Warhol.”
A few hours later, around 4 p.m. on June 3, 1968, she did.
Ms. Feiden said that Ms. Solanas had handed her the folder around noon. She said Ms. Solanas pulled out a gun as she left her apartment and repeated that she intended to shoot Mr. Warhol. “I told her, ‘You don’t want to do that don’t go kill him,’ ” Ms. Feiden recalled.
As Ms. Solanas was gone, Ms. Feiden said, she made any number of telephone calls to people who could have warned Warhol. She did not know how to reach him directly, she said, but called a cousin, who knew Warhol. She said she also dialed her local police precinct house Police Headquarters in Manhattan and the City Hall office of the mayor at the time, John V. Lindsay. No one called back.
She said she put the folder on her bookshelf and kept quiet out of concern for the safety of her daughter, then 18 months old. Her concern deepened with testimony at Ms. Solanas’s trial that suggested Ms. Solanas’s motivation for the shooting was that Warhol had misplaced or lost a copy of the play. (In 1980, Warhol wrote that he had “looked through it briefly, and it was so dirty” that he suspected Ms. Solanas was working for the police on “some kind of entrapment.”)
Ms. Feiden decided to set the record straight after watching a public television documentary that said Ms. Solanas had been at the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan on the morning of the shooting.
“That’s not the way it was,” said Ms. Feiden, who will discuss the episode in a presentation at the National Arts Club on Tuesday evening. “She was with me all that morning. She left my living room with a gun and the stated purpose of shooting Andy Warhol.”
Ms. Feiden remembered the folder, which she had put on the shelf that afternoon. Inside were about 30 mimeographed pages — 30 pages that John McWhinney, a Manhattan manuscript dealer, said were not in two other copies of Ms. Solanas’s play that he has sold. “It’s either a continuation or it’s something that Valerie was working on, a script that was yet to be titled,” he said.
Stuart Pivar, who founded the New York Academy of Art with Warhol and became a close friend of his, said Ms. Feiden’s account “seems to ring true in every single thing that she says.”
He also said that he hoped the play, with the extra 30 pages, would be produced.
She said she was stuck between the answer she gave Ms. Solanas — no way — and yes. 𠇋ut then she𠆝 be getting exactly what she wanted by shooting him, so I’m on a seesaw,” she said.
Andy Warhol’s Death: Not So Simple, After All
“Pop Icon Andy Warhol Dies After Routine Surgery” ran the headline in The Houston Chronicle. Time magazine questioned how “the country’s most famous pop artist dies in a prestigious big-city hospital after a rather routine gallbladder operation.”
A routine surgery: Some version of that story was repeated around the world in the days and decades after the death of the 58-year-old artist, the 30th anniversary of which is on Wednesday.
Dr. John Ryan, a medical historian and retired surgeon, has recast the story line. “This was major, major surgery — not routine — in a very sick person,” Dr. Ryan, emeritus chief of surgery at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle, said in a recent phone interview.
According to Dr. Ryan, who presented his findings on Sunday at the annual meeting of the Pacific Coast Surgical Association, Warhol’s death shouldn’t be seen as quite such a surprise. Since his retirement four years ago, Dr. Ryan, a jovial and sporty Seattleite, has been digging into Warhol’s medical history. (He got a push in that direction from his brother-in-law Hal Foster, a distinguished scholar who writes on Pop Art.) Dr. Ryan has found that the surgeon who performed Warhol’s final operation was working on someone with almost 15 years of gallbladder trouble and a family history of the same — Warhol’s father had his gallbladder removed in 1928, the year his famous son was born.
For at least a month before his death, Warhol had been ill, but had done his best to keep up his usual exhausting pace. His terror of hospitals had prevented him from getting any serious treatment. Even once Warhol had finally ended up in the office of Bjorn Thorbjarnarson, a leading surgeon — he was known for treating the Shah of Iran — Warhol had begged for some kind of stay-at-home treatment. “I will make you a rich man if you don’t operate on me,” the artist had said, Dr. Thorbjarnarson recalled during my visit to his New Jersey home in 2014. (He is now 95 and lives in Florida.)
Dr. Thorbjarnarson refused Warhol’s entreaties and found himself justified three days later, when the sick man was at last on the operating table at New York Hospital (now NewYork-Presbyterian). The surgeon found a gallbladder full of gangrene the organ fell to pieces as he removed it, he said.
As Dr. Ryan learned in his research, Warhol was dehydrated and also emaciated from having barely eaten in the previous month had for years been taking a daily dose of speed and was still suffering from the effects of a brush with death in 1968, when he was shot by an enraged hanger-on, Valerie Solanas. Only a brilliant surgeon and brilliant luck had saved his life then — he had been declared dead in the emergency room and had nine damaged organs.
Recovery from his gunshot wounds took forever and was never fully complete. He was left with a lifetime of trouble eating and swallowing, as well as a split in his abdominal muscles that gave him a large hernia. (He wore girdles to hold in his bowels.) So in 1987, on top of the tricky gallbladder removal, Dr. Thorbjarnarson would have had no choice but to repair Warhol’s abdominal wall.
The operation seemed to go well, and Warhol was in his room making calls by that evening. He still seemed fine when his private nurse checked on him at 4 a.m. But about two hours later, she found him blue and unresponsive and resuscitation efforts failed. An autopsy concluded that “ventricular fibrillation” was the cause of death, meaning that Warhol’s heart had quivered and stopped.
Stewart Redmond Walsh, professor of vascular surgery at the National University of Ireland, Galway, has researched sudden death after surgery, and found that it is not all that surprising. When a sick body goes through the trauma of a major operation, the stress on the entire system, including the heart, can sometimes be fatal, he explained. Warhol, Dr. Walsh said in a phone interview, “was unlucky,” but the artist’s bad luck should be thought of as less like a lightning strike than like being hit by a car while crossing the street.
When Dr. Ryan entered the data from Warhol’s case into the new Surgical Risk Calculator of the American College of Surgeons, it put such a patient’s chance of dying at 4.2 percent.
Warhol had cheated death once, in June 1968, when his surgeon gave even odds on the artist lasting the night. In their second go-round, death took the longer odds, and won.
She Shot Andy Warhol
The 1960’s was a turbulent decade marked by numerous notable murders, assassinations, and attempted assassinations (some of which, like the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination, the Bobby Kennedy assassination, and the murder of Kitty Genovese, have previously been chronicled on Off the Grid).
But one may have shook downtown more deeply and personally than any of the others, because it involved two quintessentially downtown figures — one a world-famous artist the other, a struggling, mentally unbalanced aspiring writer/performer/self-proclaimed social propagandist, whose greatest claim to fame ended up an attempt to kill the former, her one-time employer. That assassination attempt took place on June 3rd, 1968.
Valerie Solanas, 1936 – 1988. Copyright: Estate of Fred W. McDarrah.
On that day, Valerie Solanas went to Andy Warhol’s ‘Factory,’ then at 33 Union Square West, with a gun she had bought a few weeks earlier. She shot at Warhol three times, missing him twice but striking him the third time. She also shot art critic Mario Amaya, who was also in the Factory at the time, and attempted to shoot Warhol’s manager Fred Hughes at point blank, but the gun jammed. Solanas left the factory, and turned herself into the police. She was charged with attempted murder, assault, and illegal possession of a gun. While in custody Solanas was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. She plead guilty to “reckless assault with intent to harm”, and served a three-year prison sentence, including psychiatric hospital time.
33 Union Square West, home of Andy Warhol’s ‘Factory’ in 1968.
Sadly for Solanas, the assassination attempt was the zenith of her fame. After her release from prison she moved to San Francisco, where she continued to attempt to publish her writings, to little notice. She died in almost total obscurity in 1988 of pneumonia, though in later years her notoriety increased, including with the release in 1996 of the independent film based upon her life, “I Shot Andy Warhol.”
The movie poster. While Solanas’ writings have gained a loyal following in the years since their initial release, it is this single act for which she is most remembered.
Solanas was no ordinary figure, though like many in the 1960’s, she was a drifter drawn to the Village by the promise of cheap living and a receptive climate for radical ideas and unconventional lifestyles. Born in Ventnor City, New Jersey, she was a troubled child who later claimed she had been abused by several different male relatives and ran away and became homeless by her teenage years. But she also displayed precocious intelligence and ambition, graduating from high school on time in spite of the challenges she faced and earning a degree in psychology from the University of Maryland, College Park. There she became known for a militant brand of feminism she espoused, and, in spite of the highly restrictive laws and mores of the day, came out as a lesbian.
By the mid-1960’s, she had moved to New York City, where she began begging and working as a prostitute to support herself. In 1965 she wrote a play titled “Up Your Ass” about a man-hating prostitute and panhandler who ends up killing a man, which would not only presage but indirectly lead to her attempt upon Warhol’s life.
In 1967 Solanas wrote and self-published (via mimeograph) “The SCUM Manifesto,” a radical feminist screed which came to be both reviled and celebrated, but which attracted little attention at the time. The manifesto called for the overthrowing of the male gender and for women to institute automation and take over the world. “SCUM” may or may not have stood for “Society for Cutting Up Men,” a phrase which appears on the cover but which scholars believe Solanas never intended as the literal meaning of ‘SCUM.’ She sold the manifesto on the streets on Greenwich Village, charging women one dollar and men two. By the following spring, she had sold about 400 copies.
A later version of the 1967 manifesto.
Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex.
It is now technically feasible to reproduce without the aid of males (or, for that matter, females) and to produce only females. We must begin immediately to do so. Retaining the male has not even the dubious purpose of reproduction. The male is a biological accident: the Y (male) gene is an incomplete X (female) gene, that is, it has an incomplete set of chromosomes. In other words, the male is an incomplete female, a walking abortion, aborted at the gene stage.
It was around this time, in 1967, that Solanas first met Warhol, outside the Factory, where she asked him to publish her play, Up Your Ass. Warhol told Solanas the play was “well typed” and offered to read it. However, Warhol eventually told Solanas that he lost her play (some in the Factory claimed that Warhol found the play so dirty that he assumed it was being offered to him for production by the police as a form of entrapment). In response, Solanas demanded monetary remuneration from Warhol. Instead, he offered her $25 to appear in his film I, A Man, which she did. Solanas seemed to be happy with her participation in the film, and with Warhol, bringing the new publisher of the SCUM Manifesto, Maurice Girodias, along with her to see the film.
But somewhere along the way, things went sour between her and Warhol, as well as Girodias, at least in Solanas’ mind. Solanas became increasingly combative with several people in her life, demanding they lend her money, and she seemed increasingly angry about the control she felt both Warhol and Girodias had over her life, and her belief that they were conspiring against her.
On June 3rd, 1968, she went to the Chelsea Hotel, where Girodias was living, with the intent to shoot him. However, she was told that he was out of town, and never encountered him.
Unfortunately for Andy Warhol, though several people at the Factory tried to keep Solanas from him, telling her that he too was away, she finally encountered him in the elevator of the building. She followed him inside the Factory, and fired off several bullets. Though only one hit Warhol, it went through his lungs, spleen, liver, stomach, and esophagus. After five hours of surgery, Warhol’s life was saved, but changed forever. The very public, outgoing pop artist became much more guarded and reclusive. He spent much of the rest of his life worried that Solanas (who stalked him by phone for a while after her release from prison) would try to shoot him again. Warhol was left physically frail from the shooting as well, and his injuries were believed to have contributed to his untimely death in 1987.
The Daily News cover story. Solanas got the News to retract the use of the word “actress” to describe her, and in later editions referred to her as a “writer,” and included a statement from her.
When arrested for the shootings, Solanas told reporters that the reason for why she did it could be found in the SCUM Manifesto. Girodias immediately had the SCUM Manifesto published, and sales picked up considerably. Solanas was for a time hailed as a hero by some in the feminist movement. But her instability and apparent mental illness kept her from ever reaching the mass audience she desired — at least in her lifetime. At the time of her death in 1988, Solanas was living in a single room occupancy hotel in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco.