By Carter Ratcliff
Abbeville Press, 130 pages, 1983
My fascination with Andy Warhol began in junior high, in the early/mid-1980s. There was, of course, no Internet, so the only place to see his work was in a gallery or in books. The gallery option was not an option, at least not in my pop art deprived hometown where bronze cowboy sculptures reigned. Thankfully, this has changed and it’s now we have had Warhols exhibited locally. But back then? No chance.
So I was stuck with books. This wasn’t a problem, and I signed out every copy of every Warhol book the public library had. But it wasn’t enough. I wanted my own.
The mall bookstores were small in those days and big-box bookshops didn’t exist. If I wanted a Warhol book to call my own I’d have to go downtown, to the fancy upscale bookshop. It was intimidating and terrifyingly quiet. All the shelves were dark, polished wood. I can’t remember its name.
I didn’t dare ask the smartly-dressed man working where the Warhol book was. I walked the short aisles with what I hope came off as purpose, pausing every few feet to examine the books, hoping the book store man didn’t notice my scuffy black boots or think I was wearing too much black eyeliner (which I was) — or think I was a shoplifter. My face was hot and red.
The art section was big for a small store, and there were a few Warhol books to choose from. I couldn’t afford them all, so I picked the one with Marilyn on the cover, which seemed like a perfectly reasonable decision, though I was hyper-aware that I was indeed, judging — and choosing — a book based on its cover. I looked at the other ones, too, even after I had made my decision. I wouldn’t want anyone — anyone being the one man who was working in the book store — to think I make hasty choices, that I wasn’t serious about art or that I bought books strictly based on cover art.
When I got to the till and pulled out the cash to pay, the book store man smiled and started talking to me about the Warhol book. He said it was good, and asked me if I was doing a school project. I said no, and he smiled some more. It was just for me, I told him, because I loved Warhol’s work. He said he did, too. And then we talked about Warhol for half-an-hour.