Gallery Director Recounts Pop Artist’s Jamestown Connection, Controversy
|James D. Colby, Director of Exhibitions and Galleries at Jamestown Community College, points out Warhol's Marilyn Monroe screen print and two panels that include 26 newspaper editorials discussing Warhol's 1968 film screening at JCC. This represents a small portion of works included in the upcoming ArtHappening.|
JAMESTOWN, NY- The screening of Andy Warhol’s ‘experimental’ film in Jamestown on Jan. 18, 1968 shocked many in the audience that night and created a flurry of controversy. The hour long-film, which “flickered and jerked and showed semi nude models,” was considered “vulgar, hideous and foul matter,” according to JCC founder and trustee Sarita Weeks. Adding insult to injury, he spoke few words that night to an audience gathered to hear him speak.
The Community Debates Andy Warhol
The ensuing controversy and war of words included a public banter of 26 newspaper editorials for and against the burgeoning pop artist’s work, and according to Week’s Gallery Director, James Colby provided a glimpse into the multiplicity of the Jamestown community.
“What is so interesting to me about this whole thing is how it represents the diversity of Jamestown,” said Colby as he prepared for the event, entitled Andy Warhol: Acquisitions and Jamestown Nexus, which opens on February 2 at JCC.
The exhibit will include original artworks, artifacts, films and digital projections, which explain Warhol’s career, and the pop artist’s Jamestown connections and controversy. Works and images are on loan from the Andy Warhol Museum and Andy Warhol Foundation.
The Day Andy Warhol Came to Jamestown
Viewers will be able to see archives of those searing editorials, as well as a copy of the Jan. 2011 article from WORD magazine entitled, “The Day Andy Warhol Came to Jamestown,” which is a first hand account of events of that night according to the reflections of Dr. Robert Hagstrom, former cultural events committee member at the college.
Concerning the conservative versus progressive viewpoints, Colby says, “To me it was a model of disagreeing but still getting along.”
Lois Strickler, who would move to Jamestown after meeting the budding artist at Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh, collected many articles about Warhol. Those items, donated by Strickler and other sources will be digitally projected for the exhibit.
The Jamestown connection was put on center stage when Robert Scharmann and JCC’s cultural events committee invited Warhol to screen films and speak. Dr. Hagstrom would say “The committee was not a conservative think tank…He (Warhol) was a controversial artist… so we invited him.”
Colby states, “So, we have someone that took the conservative approach, like Sarita. She has contributed a ton to the college, why would we ever want to disconnect from her?”
Colby asserts that it is essential to reflect on Sarita’s experiences, worldview and her contributions to JCC to understand the context of her remarks. “She translated classical archives at Yale while working on her Ph.D. in theatre… championed opera, global artifacts and Victorian etiquette,” Colby writes. “Sarita never embraced modern or avante-garde movements…few individuals, whether expert, amateur or student appreciate every art period.”
“And then we have another conservative (Strickler), but in terms of her art and training was progressive and wants to (embrace Warhol) and the college supported her,” says Colby. The Stricklers befriended Warhol and entertained him during his stay in Jamestown. Warhol gave Lois his iconic print of Marilyn Monroe, signing “Andy Warhol love and kisses 69,” which also on display at Weeks gallery
Tongue in cheek, the gallery director states, “I can envision a reality TV show filming Warhol dining with the Stricklers at the Town Club, juxtaposed with Sarita staying up late to write her critical editorial.”
With retrospection, Colby asserts, “the idea for a college is to embrace it all and then let people (or time) decide who becomes famous or what their value is. Because the college opened up to all of that, look how much richer it is. It’s not a narrow minded collection, it’s diverse.”
More Than Just Pop Art
Another point Colby wishes to drive home is that the work of Warhol is much more than the pop art he is famous for. He was, the gallery director states, “one of the century’s most sought after portrait artists.” Colby writes, “as a fan of Queen Elizabeth, Sarita may have bonded with Warhol if she had viewed the Queen’s proper, regal portrait. Warhol also portrayed Mao Zedong, John F. and Jackie Kennedy, Truman Capote, Liza Minnelli, Jimmy Carter, Mohammed Ali, Dorothy Hamill and other superstars.”
Like him or hate him, Warhol’s influence cannot be underestimated. Colby contends, “he totally changed the advertising and fine art industry; he changed the record industry,” adding that Warhol hired people to do album covers in ways that were never done before. “His greatest impact may have been on television and movies.”
“That’s what we are trying to do with the show is to demonstrate his influence and diversity as an artist.”
Tickets for the ArtHappening are available at campusstore.suny.jcc.edu and are also available at the JCC box office, located in the campus store, by calling 716-338-1187 or at the door.