Private trauma, popular appeal



Andy Warhol

My wife is completely remodeling the bathroom upstairs, so for weeks we’ve had a steady traffic of foot-soldiers bearing drills, tile, dry wall, sinks, and all the other needed weaponry, up and down the stairs beside my studio, so I’ve been reading and doing other work, rather than painting. Which means I’m delving again into Donald Kuspit, circling around an idea of writing something in response to an excellent column about Warhol the New York Times published months ago. I came across this interesting footnote in The End of Art, about artists who crave a following:

David Aberback, Charisma in Politics, Religion and the Media: Private Trauma, Public Ideals (New York University Press, p. ix) He notes that the charismatic gains power over the public by craving to be loved by it and even belong to it, “though hurt and disillusioned in private life.” Thus, the charismatic becomes a kind of helpless baby and brings out the helpless baby in everyone. As Aberbach writes . . . the baby seeks “charismatic union” with a parent–the public at large in the case of an artist like Warhol, whose charismatic appeal was so great, that is, whose “craving for relation” (wish to belong and to be unconditionally and uncritically loved) was so intense, that it rubbed off on his possessions. One helps Warhol by believing that everything he touches is aesthetically significant.

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