I confess, I fell in love with an “ancient” picture book from 2003. And for good reason: it’s dry, understated humor. And its fah-bu-lous illustrations.
I’ll tell you right up front. Andy Warhol’s brother was a junk man. Such fertile ground for creativity!
“Looking back on those days, the one thing I remember most is thinking my dad had the best darn job in the world. Our yard was always so much more fun than anyone else’s in the neighborhood.”
As James relates in his author’s note, he, his parents and siblings would pack up and pile into the car in a town outside of Pittsburgh, only to show up a few hours later at Uncle Andy’s in NYC without warning.
“There we were, all eight of us standing in front of a huge black door, ringing the bell. After a long wait, the door unlatched and slowly opened. Uncle Andy peered out for a minute and then let out a long “Ohhhhh!” Dad always thought it was best not to phone ahead so that it would be a surprise. It certainly worked.”
I love it! So understated! Then we hear about their “Bubba” (a Carpathian-Rusyn word for grandmother), who covered them in kisses and fed them salamis, breads, and cheeses, before setting up makeshift beds for everyone to sleep. Andy Warhol lived with his mother! You all may have known this, but I did not.
Jamie, the author as a young boy, compares the junk they have at home with the “important art” in Uncle Andy’s house. We hear about Uncle Andy’s 25 cats, all named Sam. And we see a cross section view of Uncle Andy’s four-story home with a basement, the children “flying up and down the stairs and through all of the rooms like a band of wild monkeys.” Only relatives can get away with such things. It’s no wonder Uncle Andy ended putting them all to work to keep the commotion manageable.
James’s father often brought Andy gifts from the junk yard. On this visit, he brings a giant magnet covered in bolts and screws. Warhol liked it so much he gave it a prominent place by the front door.
“At night Uncle Andy went out to parties to see other famous people. In the morning, we patiently sat by his door, waiting for it to open so he could tell us all about who he had met.”
I grin, imagining what it must have been like for Andy Warhol to have six kids waiting outside his door after a night out partying. And then James’s little sister surprises Uncle Andy by going into his room “a little too early” and startling the poor man before he’s put one of his wigs on to cover his bald head. It’s hard to kick out the relatives, yes?
Although these visits occurred throughout the 1950s and 60s, James mentions that the visit described in this book occurred in August 1962, right before Uncle Andy’s first solo exhibition, containing his Campbell soup paintings.
The author creates a running joke throughout the book, where his mother doesn’t really “see” the beauty or artistic value of “junk” art, but finally allows him to make a “mess” of an art studio in his bedroom, and “didn’t make him clean it up.” She even took to driving him to art class, a sign that she was “finally understanding what art is all about.”
A fah-bu-lous introduction to pop art, Andy Warhol, and the creative process.
What is Pop Art? Tate Museum video
10 Pop Art Projects– Everything from Any Warhol costumes to soup labels.
Title: Uncle Andy’s
AUTHOR/Illustrator: James Warhola
Publisher: Puffin Books, 2003
Themes: Pop art, families, artistic influence
For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s blog.