Andy Warhol’s Myths series of prints were created in 1981, and were first shown in an exhibit at the Ronald Feldman Fine Arts Gallery during the same year. The portfolio of 10 prints includes : The Star, The Witch, Howdy Doody, Uncle Sam, Superman, Mammy, Dracula, Santa Claus, The Shadow, and Mickey Mouse. Several of these screen prints are also embellished with diamond dust. The subjects of the screen prints are widely recognizable figures of American film, history and culture. Nearly all the prints were derived from already existing images. However, Warhol used costumed models to create the portraits of Santa Claus, Uncle Sam, and Mammy. Overall, the portfolio encompasses Warhol’s own life and the magic of 20th century American pop culture.
Aside from the iconic imagery, each print reveals facets of Warhol’s personality and desires. For instance, the imagery of Superman and Mickey Mouse actually represent two of Warhol’s idols. When he was a child, Warhol was diagnosed with an immobilizing illness and found comfort in Superman comics which depicted an unlikely hero. As an adult, Warhol famously stated he wanted to be a cultural icon like Mickey Mouse. This Mickey Mouse screen print is surprisingly the first time the famous Disney character has appeared in Warhol’s work. Additionally, those who knew Warhol were aware of his obsession with Christmas. In many ways, Christmas represents color, excess and festivity, all of which Warhol adored. To that end, the print titled Santa Claus is an obvious reference to Warhol’s own life. Finally, in The Shadow, Warhol uses his own face to portray the 1930’s crime fighting hero of his childhood. Overtly self-referential, Warhol places himself among his idols.
20th Century American Pop Culture
Most of these images are from the 1940’s and 1950’s, when Warhol was a boy. Many experts see this portfolio as a look by Warhol at his childhood. Above all, the imagery presented in Myths are nostalgic representations of America’s enchanted past. From the vibrant coloring to the icons’ dramatic expressions, each screen print reflects American glamour and theatricality. For instance, Margaret Hamilton reprises her role as the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz film. In Warhol’s photos of Hamilton, she mimics the same expressions and poses of the witch from the film. In the screenprint, Warhol colors her face with the vibrant green associated with her character. Unlike many of his other works, Warhol’s screenprint of Howdy Doody was not taken from mass media but from a photo Warhol took himself. Above all, Warhol imposes his pop style onto these already established icons, injecting himself into the vein of pop culture. Even more remarkable, these images continue to be recognizable in contemporary times, wittily subverting what Warhol termed “fifteen minutes of fame”.