Creating a Figment: Visiting Andy Warhol’s Grave
Live images of Warhol's Grave:
Information on St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery
Article about Installing the Live Webcam at the Gravesite
The Warhol Museum Site
Some people have very clear plans for when they die. Some want to be buried. Some want to be cremated. Some want to donate their bodies to science. Any Warhol was very clear about his plans, once stating:
“I never understood why when you died, you didn’t just vanish, and everything could just keep going on the way it was only you just wouldn’t be there. I always thought I’d like my own tombstone to be blank. No epitaph and no name. Well, actually, I’d like it to say “figment.”
But just as you don’t get what you want in life, Andy did not get his wish either, at least not in the literal sense. After passing away from complications of gallbladder surgery in 1987, Andy Warhol was buried at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery in Bethel Park, PA, just outside of Pittsburgh. His tombstone is uncharacteristically traditional: simply his name, his date of birth (August 6, 1928), his date of death (February 22, 1987) and images of a cross and praying hands. His fans took care of that, however. Andy’s grave has become a popular spot for his admirers to visit, and they have dressed up his grave with his unique style.
The gravesite is adorned with his signature Campbell’s soup cans, Coke bottles, pop culture images, flowers, notes and other gifts throughout the year. In typical Andy fashion, the gravesite is now recorded 24/7 on EarthCam (watch a live feed here: http://www.warhol.org/figment/). Also, an ongoing art project titled “Figments: Conversations with Andy” by Madelyn Roehrig, takes place at the site. A folder of paper and markers remains next to the grave where visitors can write notes to Andy. Roehrig collects these notes and posts them on the Facebook group, “Conversations With Andy”. These efforts have helped to fulfill Warhol’s wish of his life's work continuing after his death. What would otherwise be an unimpressive gravestone in a dull cemetery overlooking a busy road, far from his adopted New York City has become a colorful patch of land in an unlikely spot where Andy’s work continues to inspire the hundreds fans who make the trip to see him each year.
On his birthday, Roehrig throws a party around the gravestone where all are invited to participate and celebrate the life of this unique artist. His parents’ equally modest grave sits directly behind his, Andrej and Julia Warhola. Their gravestone is finely decorated as well but its offerings consist mostly of flowers. They take a back seat to their famous son but are still able to spend eternity looking after him.
Though in both life and death you don’t always get what you want, sometimes other people can give you what you want. In Andy Warhol’s case, his fans recognized the impact that he made on the world and helped to make their hero the “figment” that he desired to be. It is important to recognize people’s wishes, and visiting Warhol’s grave offers a burst of color in a mundane world and the continuation of one’s legacy after they are gone with the help of those who they have impacted. It is not just about putting silly trinkets on a slab of stone; it is about granting wishes and giving meaning to one's life.
What are your dying wishes? What legacy do you want to leave? Leave your response in the comments below.