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Inspired by Andy Warhol's Endangered Species Series

Environmental activism and Andy Warhol are rarely associated , but Endangered Species was one of Andy Warhol’s most influential artworks. He created the entire project in 1983, and prints of Endangered Species were exhibited in New York and are still being sold by conservation groups. In the series, Warhol focuses on every animal from the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which defined endangered species as a humanitarian matter and banned trade involving the endangered animals, and made steps to protect the animal’s original habitats. The project consists of ten silkscreen prints of nearly extinct animals that were given star treatment in the style of his iconic celebrity portraits. The artist’s elevation of the series to pop culture status played a huge role in raising awareness of these species and generated funds for their preservation. Several species have since been removed from the endangered list. The efforts to protect the Giant Panda have been the most successful, which was recently removed from the list. The artist propelled the efforts of conservation forward. With the success of Endangered Species, Warhol started to collaborate with others, most notably Dr. Kurt Benirschke of the San Diego Zoo. Together, they authored a book titled Vanishing Animals and illustrated by Warhol. Warhol’s impact on environmental conservation can still be witnessed to this day.

Andy Warhol ( Andrew Warhola) was a bit of an enigma and few people knew the real person behind the myth and his skillfully crafted media image. He grew up in the coal mining town of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His parents were working-class emigrants from Slovakia. As a child, he was smart and creative. His mother, a casual artist herself, encouraged his artistic urges by giving him his first camera at nine years old. He was often sick as a child and was known to suffer from a nervous disorder resulting from Scarlet fever that would frequently keep him at home and out of school for long periods. He spent his time listening to the radio, drawing, and collecting pictures of movie stars around his bed. It was this exposure to current events at a young age that he later said shaped his obsession with pop culture and celebrities. He later attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where he studied commercial art after which, he moved to New York City and began a career in magazine fashion illustration and advertising.

Andy Warhol was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, creating some of the most recognizable images ever produced. A founding member of the Pop art movement, his work was across several media including painting, printmaking, photography, drawing, and sculpture. He was also a very prolific groundbreaking filmmaker. Challenging former concepts of modern art and veering away from abstraction, he embraced popular culture and commercial processes to produce work that appealed to the masses. During the 1960s he began to make paintings of iconic American objects such as his famous Soup Cans, and celebrity iconic images. Anything noteworthy was fair game, as well as newspaper headlines or photographs of protesters during the Birmingham campaign in the Civil Rights Movement. His fame and reputation well established by the 70’s, he concentrated on portrait commissions for rich patrons seeking his celebrity stamp and their “15 minutes of fame”, as he famously called it.

Warhol had the perspective of someone from the outside looking in. The shy and introverted observer of the famous and became just as famous as his celebrity idols. Although he was thought to have lived a wild lifestyle, he was quite conservative in his personal life and financial life often described as miserly. In his will he donated most of his work to the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts which he founded .Support grants are made annually for scholarly exhibitions at museums; curatorial research; visual arts programming at artist-centered organizations; artist residencies and commissions; and efforts to promote the health, welfare and first amendment rights of artists. Warhol’s impact on environmental conservation can still be witnessed to this day. Before he died, he bought 15.1 acres of beachfront property in Montauk, Long Beach, and a large parcel of land in Colorado which he left in a pristine condition. He arranged the ownership of the property to be transferred after his death to the Nature Conservancy. He also donated the Andy Warhol Preserve to be part of a land conservancy.

“I think having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art that anybody could ever want to own.”


 Week One: Cave Paintings

It has been an eventful week in our Art Literacy class. We have been all around the world.  I would like to thank all of my wonderful students for their great efforts. We began with the story of the discovery of the discovery of cave paintings in Lascaux,  France  and also looked at images from  Spain , where the oldest known cave paintings have been found,  in the cave called El Castillo. The prehistoric dots and crimson hand stencils are now the world's oldest known cave art that dates more than 40,800 years old.

© Serene Greene- Art Literacy Academy
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