I’ve been working on a manuscript about the people who hung around Andy Warhol’s Factory in its various incarnations as an antidote to the monolithic status he has as an artist. Many people think of him as singularly innovative, but the fact is that his talent was substantially bolstered by a constantly rotating casts of creatives to fuel (& often execute) his artistic process. All my research has centered around getting a stronger sense of when and how Warhol got close to people or pushed them away, whose talents fed the machine of his artistic process (frequently with little recognition for their efforts), and when those people were spat back out or abandoned when their level of usefulness waned. Luckily, there are tons of documentaries, biographies, and critical texts available that chronicle his collaborative approach to fine art, many of them first hand accounts from co-conspirators like The Velvet Underground, Paul Morrissey (his business manager), Candy Darling (on of the post-Edie Superstars) and Bob Colacello (longtime editor of Warhol’s Interview magazine).
There are contradicting reports about all kinds of things across his many biographies and among his surviving intimates, and the gaps in the stories are fascinating to me. A Walk Into The Sea started me out on my project, so it’s listed first. The film follows an investigation into why Danny Williams, who did lighting design for the traveling Exploding Plastic Inevitable show with The Velvet Underground, has been basically erased from most historical accounts of Factory life. Williams was one of Warhol’s few romantic partners, living and working with him during the most fiercely productive time in Factory life, the cross-section of painting successes and the early days of Factory film production. I’ve also included the misandrist manifesto of Valerie Solanas, the woman who shot Andy Warhol over an unreturned piece of her writing. Also, towards the end of the list, a biography of Diane Arbus in which there’s a great scene of her photographing former Factory Superstar Viva, who has several choice things to say about working with Warhol. Several collection of photographs, both Warhol’s own and those by two of his closest confidants, Billy Name, who was responsible for silvering the original factory and maintaining the amphetamine culture that fueld much of the art during that time period, and Brigid Berlin, Hearst heiress and star of Chelsea Girls who spoke on the phone to Andy almost daily for decades. POP: The Genius of Andy Warhol from 2009 is the source I’ve found to be the most reliable in how cross-checked facts are, as the authors report dozens of instances where their own research led them to conflicting timelines about the origins of ideas for painting series’ as well as conflicting reports from Warhol himself on his relationships and motivations.
- A Walk Into The Sea: Danny Williams & The Warhol Factory, a film by Esther Robinson (2007)
- Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Up Close, by Bob Colacello (1990)
- Andy Warhol: Unexposed Exposures, by Bob Colacello (2010)
- Beautiful Darling, a film by James Rasin (2009)
- Pop: The Genius of Andy Warhol, by Tony Scherman & David Dalton (2009)
- POPism: The Warhol Sixties, by Andy Warhol & Pat Hackett (2005)
- SCUM Manifesto, by Valerie Solanas (1967)
- Chelsea Girls, a film by Andy Warhol & Paul Morrissey (1966)
- Billy Name: The Silver Age (2014)
- Brigid Berlid: Polaroids (2016)
- Diane Arbus: A Biography, by Patricia Bosworth (1984)
Emily O’Neill is a writer, artist, and proud Jersey girl. Her debut collection, Pelican, is the inaugural winner of YesYes Books’ Pamet River Prize for women and nonbinary writers and the winner of the 2016 Devil’s Kitchen Reading Series. She is also the author of three chapbooks: Celeris (Fog Machine), You Can’t Pick Your Genre (Jellyfish Highway), and Make a Fist & Tongue the Knuckles (Nostrovia! Press). She teaches writing and tends bar in Boston, MA.
Photo credit: Jonathan Weiskopf.