This portfolio depicts icons of American TV and popular culture. Warhol once stated, “everybody has their own America, and then they have pieces of a fantasy America that they think is out there but they can’t see… you’ve pieced them together from scenes in movies and music and lines from books. And you live in your dream America that you’ve custom-made from art and schmaltz and emotions just as much as you live in your real one.”
Depicting fictional figures from television, film and popular folklore, using rich colours and diamond dust, Warhol pays a nostalgic homage to the characters that featured heavily in both his childhood and a shared American cultural consciousness. In many ways, the Myths series can be viewed as a portrait of Warhol’s own personal America.
For example, Howdy Doody was a children’s television show that first aired in 1947, while The Star features Greta Garbo.
Andy Warhol was one of the first artists to use diamond dust in his screen prints, the earliest being his ‘Diamond Dust Shoes’ in 1980. Diamond dust adds an illusion of glamour to Warhol’s works, but in true Warholian style, this is mere illusion since the dust used is inexpensive and mass-produced.
For many works in the series, including Dracula and Uncle Sam, the artist called upon actors and friends to recreate these archetypal characters. Warhol then took Polaroid photographs which became the source material for his screen prints. This elaborate process, involving makeup and costumes, resulted in dynamic images imbued with movement and vivid colour.
Warhol even included an image of himself as The Shadow, a crime-fighting hero from the 1930s radio show. The artist looks out from the picture plane as a shadowy, enigmatic figure.
The Myths portfolio succinctly exemplifies one of the central concepts underpinning Warhol’s practice: that of elevating everyday mass media imagery to the realm of fine art.
Many of the subjects for these prints are from 1950s television shows or Hollywood films, and Mickey Mouse is one of the oldest icons depicted in the collection, dating back to 1928 when the character was created by Walt Disney.
The Myths collection captures Warhol’s ability to spot the most prominent icons and symbols of contemporary culture. Warhol is known for his Pop Art portraits of iconic film stars and singers such as Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley and later in 1985, the artist created another series of artworks inspired by symbols of popular culture, the Ads collection.