‘Jamestown Nexus’

The Weeks Gallery at Jamestown Community College will present an ArtHappening on Saturday, Feb. 2, to introduce “Andy Warhol: Acquisitions and Jamestown Nexus.”

Warhol’s art and life will come alive through original artworks, films, digital projections and text. Local residents will illuminate Warhol’s JCC film screening and controversy through oral histories and 26 Post-Journal editorials that were published between Jan. 19 and Feb. 2, 1968.

WHO WAS ANDY WARHOL? WHAT IS HIS LEGACY?

Warhol, the eccentric master of the eclectic, rose from Pittsburgh’s post-war working class, became the golden boy of New York City’s advertising industry, reigned as the king of pop art and became the most influential American artist of the 20th century. His aura helped manufacture the postmodern Zeitgeist.

Warhol’s global popularity is on the rise due to The Warhol Museum that enshrines his work and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts that advances avant-garde art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently closed their fall exhibition, “Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years,” that revealed Warhol’s influence on contemporary artists. To further illustrate, Warhol’s “Eight Elvises,” 1963, sold for $100 million in a private sale to an anonymous buyer.

The JCC exhibition includes selections from Warhol’s 51 gelatin silver prints and 103 Polaroid photos granted by The Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Program to the Weeks Gallery’s Global Collection of Photography. Portraits of celebrities like Dorothy Hamill, Truman Capote, Lilly Tomlin, Pia Zadora, Margaux Hemingway, Steve Rubell, Veronica Hearst, and other friends and associates will fill the gallery’s walls. Plus, one of Warhol’s pink Marilyn Monroe screen prints will be on display. Text panels and digital projections will feature news clippings, a few of his most famous works, screen tests, films, and more.

ARTHAPPENING

The Weeks Gallery ArtHappening begins at 6 p.m. A brief ceremony to honor Lois Strickler and Dr. Robert A. Hagstrom will start at 6:30 in the Weeks Gallery.

In the early 1990s, Dr. Hagstrom worked with Mrs. Strickler (then president of the gallery advisory board), JCC’s administration, JCC Foundation and The Ralph C. Sheldon Foundation to hire a professional curator, foster urban-like museum programs, and complete the state-of-the-art Community Cultural Center where ArtParties, plays and community programs are now held.

Jonathan Katz, associate professor and director of the visual studies Ph.D. program at the University at Buffalo, will present a Warhol lecture in the Robert Lee Scharmann Theatre at 7. Katz, author of “Andy Warhol,” reveals Warhol’s successes and personal struggles associated with resistive behavior and gay identity. Katz specializes in researching and connecting Cold War artists like Jon Cage, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol.

The reception, which begins at 7:45 p.m. in the Scharmann lobby and Weeks Reception Hall, includes wine and beer tasting, and hors d’oeuvres. Babik, the feature entertainment, will present gypsy jazz for the reception.

The Buffalo News calls Babik “one of the hottest bands in Buffalo.” Babik (pronounced Bah-‘beek) plays a unique brand of jazz known as gypsy swing that was created in the 1930s by the legendary two-fingered gypsy guitarist, Django Reinhardt. Their modern style blends improvisations, American big band swing, European folk songs and passionate rhythms.

To top off the exhibition, The Andy Warhol Museum has loaned screen tests for Bob Dylan, Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp, Edie Sedgwick and others. Plus, guests can view an episode of “Andy T.V.,” a rare filming of Warhol creating a work of art, and an episode of “Fashion,” a Manhattan Cable talk show, that features interviews with Debbie Harry and Blondie, and Levi and the Rockats.

WHEN DID THE JAMESTOWN CONNECTION BEGIN?

The connection between Warhol and Jamestown began when Lois Strickler, a Pittsburgh native, met the budding artist at Carnegie Tech. She was not a close friend, but linked with Warhol through Betty, a mutual friend. Lois graduated in 1949, and Warhol moved to New York City to work as a commercial artist.

She moved to Jamestown and later served on JCC’s gallery development board. At the same time, she vicariously connected to Warhol by reading articles documenting his rise to superstar status. These readings kept her abreast of trends and critic writing, and provided research materials and displays for the upcoming Weeks exhibition.

The JCC links continued on Jan. 18, 1968, when Robert Scharmann and JCC’s cultural events committee invited Warhol to screen films and speak. “The committee was not a conservative think tank … He (Warhol) was a controversial artist … so we invited him … and Sarita Weeks’ editorial created a lively brouhaha in the community,” said Dr. Hagstrom.

During his visit, some criticized Warhol and his work; others supported and befriended the rising pop star. Three large framed tableaus will present the 26 Post-Journal editorials and Steve Lafreniere’s WORD interviews with Dr. Hagstrom and Ken and Lois Stickler.

The day after Warhol’s film screening, Weeks delivered a brilliantly written editorial that described Warhol’s films and lecture; the crowd’s questions, frustrations, and anger; and the dress, demeanor, and comments of Warhol and his bohemian entourage-Viva (Janet Hoffman), the Warhol film star, and Paul Morrissey, his manager. Weeks described the “hideous … foul matter” in the Post-Journal. The headline and editorial read: “Movie Termed Degrading, Lewd Spectacle: JCC Trustee Rakes Talk by Pop Art Pioneer.”

“When somebody writes a really mean article, I always just let it go by because who are you to say it isn’t the truth,” wrote Warhol in “Philosophy of Andy Warhol.”

How did residents react to her editorial and call for “strict control” of the cultural events committee? What else did she say? Who were the community members who supported and/or criticized Warhol and Weeks? By reading the text panels included in the exhibition, the answers to these questions will be revealed.

Conversely, Lois and Ken Strickler befriended Warhol. They dined at the Town Club with JCC faculty and Warhol’s entourage, and they invited Warhol and friends to their Lakewood home for a post-film party. In my mind’s eye, I can envision a reality TV show filming Warhol mingling at the Stricklers, juxtaposed with Weeks staying up late to write her critical editorial.

As Warhol was leaving the party, he invited the Stricklers to visit on their next New York City trip. They followed up with a short, pleasant conversation while in New York. When departing, Warhol gave Lois the Marilyn Monroe print (signed: Andy Warhol love and kisses 69), the one now in the Weeks Gallery collection. “I gave the Marilyn print to JCC because the 1968 event reconnected Andy to us and precipitated the unexpected gift,” said Lois.

Paradoxically, the Marilyn print and the Warhol photographs have become the flagship of the Weeks Gallery art collection and avant-garde complement to Sarita’s global artifacts. Lois Strickler and Weeks – two dynamic JCC family members contributing lifelong service, patronage and contrasting world views-were united. Their Yin-Yang energies (dualities) became complementary forces to increase JCC’s museum excellence and enhance community cultural life.

WHAT ROLES SHOULD ARTISTS ASSUME?

Art can satisfy the senses, soothe the soul and inspire. Classical Greek artists fashioned perfect bodies with ideal proportions and graceful movements – metaphors for perfection of the body, mind and spirit. This reflects Weeks’ reverence for beauty and “splendid idealism.”

Conversely, avant-garde artists frequently exhale the first breaths of rebellion when unfulfilled desires and expressions lie dormant. Warhol’s films reflect some of the counterculture’s subconscious impulses against the established 1950s conservatism. At times, this may be viewed as a necessary catalyst in the service of transformation. This gives Weeks’ “onward and upward” a different take. Beauty may manifest in the trying process of sociocultural change.

The film “Cloud Atlas” suggests that the nexus, choices and actions preform the future. Warhol fully manifested his vision and projected it into the future with his genius works, networking, entrepreneurial spirit and Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. His work ethic, pluralistic views, assimilation into the Zeitgeist, and business strategies set him apart and made him as American as Campbell’s soup.

Robert Hughes in TIME, March 9, 1987, summed up Warhol’s notoriety: “To the end, Warhol remained surrounded by an aura of popular fame such as no other American artist had ever known in his or her lifetime – a flash-card recognizability that almost rivaled Picasso’s. Millions of Americans who could not have picked Jasper Johns or Henri Matisse from a police lineup could identify that pale, squarish, loose-lipped face with its acne, blinking gaze and silvery wig.”

This Weeks Gallery exhibition and ArtHappening event promises to be one of the most provocative exhibitions in the history of the college because of the universal recognition of Andy Warhol, the oral histories and editorials, and the multi-faceted displays. The exhibition, lecture and films will provide a comprehensive look at Warhol the artist and cultural innovator.

For those who have never attended a Weeks Gallery event, this is the time to experience one of Jamestown Community College’s ArtHappenings, an urban-like cultural event with community friends and hometown atmosphere. The exhibit will run from Feb. 4 to March 21.

For more information visit weeksgallery.sunyjcc.edu.