Something about Taylor’s instability and image made Warhol mirror her future in his pictures, observes Jerry Saltz.
Andy Warhol: Liz, silkscreen on linen, 1963.
Andy is in the air we breathe; Liz was in the air hebreathed. Yet Warhol and Taylor are still looked at suspiciously, like beautiful losers or uncouth, ungainly winners. In his own lifetime Warhol was lambasted as “this weird little faggot,” “a creep,” “abnormal” and “homosexual.” Willem de Kooning famously railed at him, “You’re a killer of art.” Would Warhol have been as belittled had he been straight, more “normal”? Would Taylor have been so parodied had she not embraced the gay community? As critic Robert Pincus-Witten wrote, “Andy was forged on the anvil of the straight… [but was] armored by his languid and defensive swish.” This languidness and armor drew a lot of fire. It still does.
Andy loved women and the power of the feminine, and the women he loved most and best were Marilyn, Jackie and Liz. Many of the paintings made in his heyday, between 1962 and 1965, were of them. Like the women themselves, the pictures of Liz exude a primitive hit of graphic power, stunning color, seething glamour, repressed sexuality and flawed beauty.