Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

Art Was Everywhere This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

By
     Art was everywhere you looked. Inside your cabinets, inside the bathroom mirror, in vending machines, on the TV, looking back from the mirror - we gathered inspiration from everything and anything. Campbell’s soup cans, t-shirts, flyers, leaves rushing from an alley, flags - we’d challenge the form of it all. If a flag is painted on a canvas, is it still a flag? That was the question posed by the ’60s. In the ’70s the question was, if a Campbell’s soup can is pitched before you notice it, who are we as artists to allow it to be ignored? Humanity was too busy looking to space, to Mars, to entertainment, to care about anything in their world. We were all looking at the stars, easy to see, but just a dream. An impossible aspiration. That’s why we brought art back to Earth.

We were hailed as true originals for painting portraits of record players.

Let me take a step back, though. Before all this happened, there was just me and a paintbrush and a sick fascination with Andy Warhol. You ever hear the saying, “Art is everywhere you look”? Yeah, I thought it was a load of bull, too. Then came the Campbell’s soup can. I was awestruck. I had to meet the guy who called that art. Anyone who thought that was art would love to see a guy like me, a walking piece of misery. Inspiration would come at him like a swarm of locusts; all he’d have to do is catch as many as he could before they were gone.

I had heard he was running this place called The Factory, an artists’ retreat, as if he could turn them out on an assembly line. Art is everywhere. Inspiration isn’t. Andy fixed that. When you left The Factory, you were ready to take on the world with Andy’s ideas, Andy’s thoughts, Andy’s inspiration. He was a martyr for us all, giving up little pieces of his brilliance so we could live off our own work. He gave us life and fulfillment.

But is art seen through someone else’s eyes still art?

What Andy Warhol did they called pop art. He took images from mass media and reproduced them to make art. He looked through the eyes of the masses and we looked through his. Reciprocity.

It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life. Humanity becoming interdependent. It made us all important. To know we had something to do with Green Coca Cola Bottles, the imprint of Marilyn Monroe’s face, the half-peeled banana, the Campbell’s soup can - like all our hands together created the masterpiece. It was something the world shared. Art could do anything.

I wanted more. I didn’t want to settle for being one of the millions of hands. I wanted to be the only hand. I wanted to be Andy’s hand. I wanted to be on the canvas. To be a reproduction of mass media. To live forever as I am today. To be gawked at in museums.

I wanted to be his next piece.

I bought a ticket and headed to New York City to The Factory. I was heading to immortality through Andy Warhol. I wanted to be mass produced.

When I arrived in New York City, the first thing I did was take a flyer. It didn’t matter what the flyer was for. It was somewhere to go, somewhere to meet the right people. It was a flyer for a Jobriath concert, an American knock-off of David Bowie. The record execs are trying to be Andy. They’re reproducing something amazing, something off-the-wall, something brilliant, something everyone’s seen, and selling it as new and undiscovered: musicians who pretend to be aliens. Who’d have thought so many people would relate? When it comes right down to it, I guess we’re looking at the stars to find someone to hold our hands. We’re not looking for dreams, just company.

And company in New York City is hard to find.

I didn’t know where the place on the flyer was, so I asked and was directed to a little place on Times Square. No wonder people look at the stars for company instead of the next seat on the bus. I ended up sleeping on a trash bag. It wasn’t as uncomfortable as it sounds, much better than the bus.

The next morning, there was something in the air. The smell of vacancy. I was suddenly overwhelmed with doubt. This emptiness in the air - it must mean that Andy’s left town. When I got here, I could feel his presence. And now, I’m not feeling anything. Just emptiness. Maybe it’s just New York City. Maybe it’s just apathy. It can’t be me. Even Andy would reject an empty person. Emptiness is just too depressing, no matter what it is that’s empty. It puts you on the same level as the homeless. Visible, but ignored.

After a prostitute’s shower in the bathroom of a McDonald’s, I continued the search. Andy Warhol was somewhere and I was going to find him. I was off to Manhattan. High-class ordeals and no-class gossip - the rich and famous, the young and hopeless, the mixed and matched. Where art meets the stratosphere and asphyxiates itself. Manhattan is a kaleidoscope - when everyone looks like a rainbow, no one stands out. Beauty’s crypt.

In Manhattan, what you have to do is walk like no one else matters. You have to care about not caring. Like you’re not out there to sign autographs. If you ignore people while paying attention to them, they’ll think you’re famous. That’s what they want - to be ignored by someone they see as better than them.

To get the attention of a celebrity, you have to care about not caring more than they do. It shakes their self-esteem. Every egomaniac, deep down, is just another coward. That’s why they respond when you don’t care. It frightens them. The spotlight starts to flicker.

So that’s what I did. Sure, I looked like hell, but it’s not how you look in the ’70s. It’s how important you look. After all, we were selling alien musicians and soup cans. So I puffed up, pulled my shoulders back, and walked with a large, space-consuming stride. I made people move out of my way if they were walking upstream, and I sneered at people who were just like me. All for Andy Warhol. All to get noticed by a celebrity. All to get into the high-class art world and get my portrait done.

The plan worked. This fellow named Lou Reed noticed me on the sidewalk, splitting the masses of businessmen and leftover hippies like the Red Sea. He was instantly intrigued and offered to buy me a drink.

The bar he took me to was lousy. The dirty martinis were only dirty because the glasses were unwashed. The cigarette smoke was worse than a burning building. And all these fiery individuals inside, they were Andy’s. Indirectly, perhaps, but they were in the art world. I’d made it that far. I’d made it into the arena, I just needed to find the right ring.

I told Lou I was looking for Andy Warhol. He looked at me, eyebrow perched on forehead, and motioned for me to come in closer. Close like the 90 percent you come in before kissing a girl, expecting her to go the rest of the ten. That close. He said he knew where Andy was.

My heart jumped out of my chest and onto the table and into my dirty, dirty martini. I shot the liquor down and had Lou take me to Mr. Warhol. The whole walk there, I pictured what I’d look like on Andy Warhol’s canvas. I was wondering if the high-brow art community would accept me as art. I wondered if Andy Warhol would.

Lou had fallen quiet. He had his hands shoved deep in his pockets. He kicked his feet at nothing in particular with each step. His eyes kept wandering up to look at the stars, looking for a hand to hold. Even rock stars are lonely. The less he looked like he cared, the more obvious it became that he did. I felt a twinge of guilt. But my needs came first, and I needed Andy.

We stepped into Andy’s studio, what we’d call Paradise. In Paradise, everything was dependable. Everything was exactly as it looked. There was no guessing. No blind groping. This was perfection. Flawless and free of deception. Some would call it grotesque, some would say boring, some would even say perfection was flawed - I call it dying. Not in the sense that my body stopped working, or that I was no longer pulling in enough oxygen, but in the sense that I had reached Heaven. Meeting Andy was Judgment Day.

My hands were sweaty. My heart was pounding. My head was light. Andy Warhol. I just wanted to be his next project. I’d do anything. Hyperventilate. Slowly. Casually. Die on this floor. Maybe a corpse would be lovelier. More shocking. More ignored. I’d do anything.

He said he wouldn’t do it. He wouldn’t paint me. He’d already painted me a thousand times, in every picture, every print, and every collage. Just like that, my dreams were crushed. There’s something to be said for perfection - it’s not at all as we believe. Perfection tells you when you’re not good enough. Perfection lords it over you. Perfection laughs at you. And you wilt. Wither. Empty. Tears abandon you for perfection. You can’t even cry. All you can do is sit against the wall and look at the wall across from you. Glassy-eyed and red-faced. At least the tombstone eyes are still with you. They’ll always be there. Faithfully recording the world for you. That’s when you realize that memories are just art that won’t last. That’s when you realize, you’ve got to do something to show perfection you are good enough.

That’s when you pick up a paintbrush of your own.

I was still able to go in and out of Andy’s studio. To tell the truth, he kind of liked me. He just wouldn’t paint me. But he shared his supplies. I got a canvas next to a window. Outside, I saw a brick wall and trash. Occasionally a junkie would stumble by. This is the view. This is why everyone’s looking to the stars instead of outside. Our view was a brick wall, and no one wants to talk to a wall.

What I found out about Lou Reed was that he’d picked up a heroin addiction and his arms looked like airplane runways. Sometimes he’d lie against the wall strung out for days on end. I’d move my mirror to block him from view. Every artist needs a mirror. Something to block out what you don’t want to see.

What I’d learned by then was that pop art was cannibalizing itself. We couldn’t keep reproducing the same things. People were sick of it. And we kept faithfully producing. We couldn’t come up with anything new. TVs were ruining us. Our film strips went silent again. We were left alone with pop culture’s back turned. And human interdependence was shattered.

I’d still have my portrait. I’d have my immortality. Maybe Andy wouldn’t give it to me directly, but I’d be mass produced just the same. And I’d still give him credit.

Then, it happened.

In the mirror world where Lou Reed now resided, a fire started. He was too strung out to do anything. I was painting and didn’t notice over the paint fumes. The smoke, the fire, the tarnished mirror. The screams, the running. Someone carried Lou outside. My paint-caked brushes kept on taking the plunge into more paint. More paint. I kept on waiting for something magical to appear on the canvas, but it was just me. I was making a memory.

The fire had a lot of food to eat. Paintings, canvases, lyrics, musical instruments, clothes, posters all gone. The fire grew and grew, like mold on old tea. Smoke hovered above me. I started to cough. I kept painting. My hands were shaky. My lungs were dark. I knew something bad was going to happen. I was still putting my all into the painting. I’d get my eyes just right. I’d get every hair where it should be. I’d project my plainness onto the canvas. It would be as ugly and honest as I was.

As ugly and honest as I was ...

The fire destroyed it. The painting. My life. We died together. Immortality left my grasp with my last gasp. I tell you this now because remorse won’t let me rest. I gave up my life chasing immortality. I wanted the world to remember me. Instead, no one does. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, memories don’t last forever - they’re easily crushed. But they’re beautiful and worthwhile because they’re fragile, like people.

All in the hopes that maybe one day, you’ll remember me.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the April 2006 Teen Ink Fiction Contest.






Join the Discussion

This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

Sarbear This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 23, 2010 at 12:49 pm
that is so great. im glad it didn't sound like every other story ive read on here. it was definately dif. and unique. keep writing and check out my work too:-)
 
hawkfire said...
Nov. 10, 2009 at 4:53 pm
wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww
 
Blue-eyed_Hippy-chick said...
Jun. 16, 2009 at 1:52 am
o wow amazing but kinda terrifying and surreal
 
bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback