“I’m for the individual as opposed to the corporation. The way it is the individual is the underdog, and with all the things a corporation has going for them the individual comes out banged on her head. The artist is nothing. It’s really tragic.” — Marilyn Monroe
Andy Warhol was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. In his paintings, Warhol used images from brand name consumer products such as Campbell’s and Coca-Cola, as well as famous celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Muhammad Ali and others.
In the summer of 1962, Warhol began exploring silk-screening, a printing technique whereby ink is passed through a stencil of woven mesh, such as silk, and transferred to a canvas. That August, the legendary Marilyn Monroe committed suicide, shocking her admirers…Warhol included. He had a self-described intense appreciation for Hollywood, its glamour and glitz, and he was as captivated by Marilyn’s beauty as the rest of us.
Shortly after her death, Warhol was inspired to use Marilyn as the subject for a series of images. He chose a famous publicity photo by Gene Korman from the 1953 film Niagara and silkscreened multicolored variations of it onto canvases. One of his most famous works, Warhol’s Marilyn series has become perhaps the most iconic representation of Marilyn Monroe herself.
Warhol’s art sparked controversy over artistic expression and commerciality, and these conversations continue even today.
Artists like Warhol have used methods of appropriation throughout history, finding inspiration in the works of others, building upon their work, using borrowed elements from their work, and combining it with their own creativity to produce new work. This is how art evolves.
In fact, it’s how we evolve. No scientist works alone without incorporating theories proven earlier; no philosopher debates positions previously unstated; no inventor creates the unimagined. Rather, they absorb the things around them and transform that knowledge into new concepts, ideas and products.
Similarly, artists advance technologies, tell stories, and invent…but they do so within increasingly limited environments.
Today if you want to use to the work of someone else in your own creative work, the path to legality is murky and obstructive, particularly if the work is to be published on the Internet. Copyright legislation has become more restrictive, even now pitting artist against artist through an unprecedented level of commoditized art.