Andy Warhol: Closeted Catholic

andyblog-flashThe longer Lent carries on, the more exposed I feel as a Catholic. I don’t mean this in a negative way, it’s simply that certain restrictions come in conversation more often. When the contents of a pot boiled over onto my recently cleaned stove the other night, my reaction was, “Oh bother,” — not my normal reaction (see my post about giving up bad language for Lent.) In a month, it will not likely be my reaction. My husband recognizes this. Anyone who knows me relatively well would recognize this. But for now, those are the sorts of Winnie-the-Pooh statements I’m making. Somehow, that is more notable than if some four-letter word escaped instead.

Aside from my concerted efforts to not swear or eat meat on Fridays (and I’ve been completely successful in the latter — it might be the first time ever,) I have mostly exposed my religion and myself because, like many 20-somethings in New York, I am overly inclined to discuss my work. Right now, Catholicism is not just my faith, it’s my work too.

It’s an interesting experiment for me. When I was in school, I took classes on religion, read the Bible several times from both religious and secular view points, and at different times have had to consider what religion meant to me. But school is different from work — in school, you’re absorbing facts, thinking critically about what you’ve learned. You’re not really trying to build on what you have.

It reminds me a little of Andy Warhol. Andy Warhol didn’t live what would be called a pious life. He indulged in an artist’s lifestyle of excess, held parties at his Factory almost nightly and was seemingly obsessed with fame. However, like me, Andy was also a part-time Catholic. More accurately, he was a closeted Catholic. He attended church almost everyday, but kept his faith relatively secret.

He explored his religion in his later works, doing silk screens of Da Vinci’s Last Supper — the image of Jesus ten-feet tall in a solid print — but kept the fact that his interests were sincere, and not just ironic takes on ubiquitous images like the rest of his work, under wraps. It makes me wonder what he would give up for Lent: if parties went quiet at the Factory, if he troubled himself with vegetarian diets on Fridays or if he could have passed them off as en vogue.

I think Andy had the right idea. Every Ash Wednesday, we’re told that when we fast, we shouldn’t make our suffering visible so that others know we’re fasting, and that when we give to charity, we should not announce that we have, because we have already received our reward. Warhol regularly ladled out food at soup kitchens — can you imagine any celebrity doing an act of charity today without a pack of paparazzi in tow? Whatever his lifestyle, I think Warhol had an admirable approach to religion; he kept his sacred to himself, and didn’t seek validation or reward from his peers.

Obviously I’m exploring my faith through my work in a far less clandestine and certainly more modest way. A blog post is a far cry from a painting that spans a gallery wall. Besides which, no one has accused me of being subversive (or of being a Maoist) in writing about Lent. I’ve gotten a couple of “Oh, I didn’t know you were Catholic” reactions, but nothing dramatic. It’s still a little strange because I normally write about rock bands; writing extensively about bands whose names would be inappropriate to print here. This might not be in keeping with a religious view of life, and that is something I often dwell upon. And I think traditionally, in creative fields, people have a knee-jerk reaction against religious inclinations, though I couldn’t tell you why.

Whether or not you discuss your faith freely, I think if it’s something that really is a part of your life rather than in the back of your mind, it develops with you. And it’s tested through various hardships. We constantly reevaluate what we feel, and sometimes that affects what we believe. Does it take a catastrophe to cause a shift in faith? Probably not. I would really like to hear how other people work at their faith. So, how do you do it?

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