Hi everyone! My name is Alissa and I am the Exhibition Assistant here at the Warhol. I am hoping with the help of the blog I can show you what we do in the Exhibitions Department. I want this blog to become a platform for open communication between us to ensure we make the museum the best place it can be for you. I have been working on some ideas on what to show everyone, but I am always open to suggestions of what you want to see/learn/read about!
Starting today I will be writing a least one post a month about a piece currently on view here. Hopefully I will be able to use the vast knowledge of the Warhol employees to get some facts and other tidbits that are not widely known. My first post is on a Warhol book created in 1956 called In the Bottom of My Garden (on view on the 7th floor). As you will see, the entire gallery is filled with blotted line drawings, gold leaf drawings, lithographs, and other works with angels and fairies. I chose this piece, which is displayed as separate pages and not in book form, because I think that it shows a shift in Warhol’s artistic style. In the 1950s Warhol was working on his commercial art career, but by the late ‘50s he was starting to try his hand in fine art.
In In the Bottom of My Garden Warhol incorporates both his commercial art background and style with his budding fine art/ Pop art career. The book combines his blotted line technique (that is all his own, and sometimes seems to me to be overlooked in the grand scheme of Soup Cans, Disasters, and Marilyns); it has a bit of whimsy, it has a bit of Julia Warhola’s overly decorated cursive, and then combines it with what would end up being themes in his later pop work – androgynous “fairies,” flowers, and of course sex. It is believed there were three or four books which inspired Warhol in the creation of this book. Charles Lisanby said that In the Bottom of My Garden was based on Flower Fairies of Autumn, a children’s book by Cicely Mary Barker. I am guessing Warhol took some liberties with the images because I am not aware of any children’s books full of fornicating cherubs, but maybe I was too sheltered growing up.
It is exciting to see early work like this because we get to see Warhol working out his ideas and finding his artistic voice. One must remember that in 1956 Pop was not THE art movement in America – Abstract Expressionism was the reigning style. To see pink cherubs frolicking across an empty plane with delicate flowers covering their gender neutral naughty parts, was not exactly considered “good art.” This book is a perfect example of Warhol trying to change styles – looking back on this work you can see Warhol on the verge of a metamorphosis. Keep in mind that in just three short years from when In the Bottom of My Garden was made, Warhol’s first (or widely accepted) Pop piece, Dick Tracy, ca. 1960, was created and the Andy Warhol that we know emerges.
Fact: The title In the Bottom of My Garden came from the song “There are Fairies at the Bottom of Our Garden” by Rose Fyleman and Liza Lahmann, and made popular by Beatrice Lillie.
If you visit the Museum and you see something you want to know about, comment on the blog and I will try my best to find answers!