- Craig Graziano
Ah, the wacky uncle. He is an institution as old as the concept of family itself. Many can claim to have one, but few can say that his uncle is one of the most important artists of the 20th century. That's where Uncle Andy's, by James Warhola, figures in.
Before Warhol was a painter, a filmmaker, and a celebrity, he was Andrew Warhola. After college, he shortened his name and left his home in Pittsburgh to start an art career in Manhattan. But back in Steel City was Andy's older brother Paul, who worked in a junkyard and was father to seven children, one of whom was our author/illustrator James. Paul used a lot of the trash he found to make sculptures, and if he found something particularly unusual, he would bring it to Andy.
James recounts a trip his family took in 1962 to visit Andy and their grandmother in New York City. James' dad would never call Andy to let him know that they were coming. He liked it to be a surprise. Andy was always incredibly surprised, but he was able to easily accommodate his guests. One page shows a cutaway of Warhol's apartment building, allowing the reader to view where everyone is and what he is doing.
Warhola's illustrations are full of warm colors and soft, rounded edges which help to present Andy in a less distancing way than many of his formal interviews. Even so, I like that James still managed to capture some of Andy's savvy aloofness.
When Paul presents Andy with his prize junk, a giant magnet with bolts stuck to it, Andy waits a beat before he says "Ohhh, gee. Wow!" and then says it can go by the door. "We knew he really liked it," James insists.
The kids get to help Andy with all of his tasks and James works on one of Andy's giant paint-by-number works. Looking for Andy's 25 cats (all named Sam) also gives the book an I Spy or Where's Waldo-like challenge. You get to hear more about them in Warhola's other book, Uncle Andy's Cats.
This book is a wonderful way to introduce children to the work of Warhol and the Pop Art movement. I leave you with my favorite Warhol interview from 1964. The man says so much with so little.