MIKOVA, Slovakia — A Slovak cousin of Andy Warhol, the Pop Art icon, knew his American relative was once a painter of a few type.
He collected that a lot from the letters his aunt, Warhol’s mom, despatched to Mikova, the hamlet within the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains the place each the artist’s oldsters lived prior to emigrating to the United States.
“I thought he painted houses,” mentioned Jan Zavacky, 73.
Nobody in Mikova has made that mistake for a very long time.
Since Warhol’s death in 1987, the tiny village in Slovakia has — kind of — embraced its function as a spot of pilgrimage for his lovers. They come in the hunt for to know how Warhol’s circle of relatives origins will have performed in his upward thrust into a world artwork big name who grabbed so a lot more than simply 15 mins of reputation.
The close by the city of Medzilaborce has became a big Communist-era publish workplace into the Andy Warhol Museum of Modern Art. The the city’s major drag has been renamed Andy Warhol Street. On it stands the Andy Hostel.
On the street to Mikova, an indication with Warhol in his trademark wig of untamed hair proudly broadcasts the village as his circle of relatives house.
After waves of emigration, few villagers stay — a cow herder, a couple of dozen pensioners and a cluster of Roma households. But all know the tale of ways the American-born son of Andrej Varchola and Julia Zavacky-Varchola made it large in New York, after converting his surname to Warhol.
Few of the 100 or so citizens, even though, suppose a lot of his artwork.
In America, “you don’t need to be very good at something,” noticed Julia Varcholova, every other cousin, who makes use of a unique spelling of the circle of relatives title. “You just need to be different. You don’t need to sing or paint well so long as you do it differently.”
Andy Warhol, she mentioned, “was very good at being different.”
She a lot prefers Rembrandt as a result of “at least you can see he put a lot of work into his paintings.”
On the brink of Ms. Varcholova’s assets in Mikova, which she left years in the past to transport to town however nonetheless visits ceaselessly, stands an previous stone smartly, the one final construction from when Warhol’s father lived on that piece of land. Warhol lovers from the United States and throughout Europe have come to appreciate it, she mentioned.
A dozen documentary motion pictures in a couple of languages characteristic the village, which is up to now from the crushed monitor that it should explain what the often-cryptic Warhol intended when he mentioned, “I come from nowhere.” Mikova doesn’t also have a cafe or bar, in most cases an indispensable characteristic of the smallest Slovak villages.
Yet such is Warhol’s renown in those portions that Frantisek Lakata, a 67-year-old retired trainer, made a 2d occupation as a Warhol impersonator — till he placed on an excessive amount of weight and may just now not plausibly pose as the thin artist.
Mr. Lakata can nonetheless do a satisfactory imitation of Warhol’s voice and, in spite of his potbelly, nonetheless likes to position on his Warhol wig. He considers the artist a kindred spirit.
“He was a bit of a weirdo,” Mr. Lakata mentioned.
For a few years, Warhol’s perceived strangeness was once a large handicap in how he was once looked in those tradition-bound lands.
Michal Bycko, an artwork knowledgeable who arrange the Medzilaborce museum with assist from Warhol’s circle of relatives within the United States, mentioned he visited Mikova within the 1970s, and attempted to unfold the phrase that the son of Andrej and Julia had grow to be global well-known via portray photos of Campbell’s Soup Cans and Marilyn Monroe.
“They laughed in my face,” Mr. Bycko recalled, and have been “outraged” when he confirmed them an image of Warhol in a wild-haired wig.
Slovakia was once then nonetheless a part of Czechoslovakia and within the grip of a Communist govt that had little interest in celebrating an artist it considered a drug-addled degenerate whose paintings celebrated consumerism.
Opinions modified after Warhol’s dying, which, Mr. Bycko mentioned, prompt an “avalanche of interest” from international artwork lovers and likewise from kinfolk, who had in the past refrained from Warhol on account of his recognition as a homosexual fixture of the underground artwork scene in New York.
Hoping to money in on Warhol’s reputation, the village attempted within the 1990s to arrange its personal museum to show photos lent via Warhol’s brothers. But the hassle collapsed, mentioned Mr. Zavacky, the Warhol cousin, who was once mayor on the time, when the photographs disappeared from a makeshift show corridor.
The Medzilaborce museum opened in 1991. It homes Europe’s greatest selection of Warhol artwork and artifacts, together with 10 Campbell’s Soup Can prints, quite a lot of Marilyn Monroes, a snakeskin jacket worn via the artist and a couple of his glasses.
Like Warhol, who moved from business artwork to the avant-garde to mainstream superstar, his circle of relatives’s village isn’t simple to pin down as belonging to a unmarried tradition or identification.
When his father moved to the United States at the eve of World War I, Mikova was once a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. When his mom adopted a couple of years later, it had grow to be a part of Czechoslovakia. That nation break up in two in 1993.
All alongside, Mikova has had its personal off-kilter identification as a part of Ruthenia, a country that existed as a political entity for simply at some point in 1939, however that survived for hundreds of years as a separate tradition and language within the borderlands between Slovakia, Ukraine and Poland.
Warhol’s oldsters each spoke Ruthenian, and the artist understood it sufficient to make use of it in 1980, when he met Pope John Paul II, who knew the language from his upbringing in southern Poland.
Warhol’s first publicity to artwork was once on early life visits to church buildings attended via fellow Ruthenians in Pittsburgh, which have been adorned with brightly coloured icons. The church in Mikova the place Warhol’s oldsters married remains to be status, painted a fluorescent yellow that makes it seem like a Pop Art hallucination within the another way drab village.
Here in Mikova, the artist’s sexuality stays a sensitive topic. “I don’t believe he was gay,” mentioned his cousin, Mr. Zavacky. “That is just gossip.”
Samuel Macko, 15, who lives in a ramshackle Roma agreement at the village’s edge, mentioned he specifically favored Warhol’s incandescent photos of Marilyn Monroe.
“I think Andy would be pretty shocked if he had ever seen where he came from,” Samuel mentioned.
Unlike his two older brothers, Warhol by no means visited his circle of relatives’s house village. The closest he were given was once Vienna.
The museum founder, Mr. Bycko, mentioned Warhol was once certainly not leery of his roots and referred to himself as coming from “nowhere” merely since the nation his oldsters left now not existed.
“Andy never denied his origins,” he mentioned.
But his failure to consult with rankles a few of his kinfolk. Mr. Zavacky speculated that “perhaps he thought Americans would not take him seriously if they knew his family came from a place like this.”
Ms. Varcholova, the opposite cousin, mentioned it was once “insulting” that Warhol had long gone to Vienna however now not afflicted to consult with his circle of relatives. “Maybe he was ashamed,” she mentioned.