Monica Warhol is Redefining Southwestern ArtDec 30, 2014 07:56PM ● By Suzie Agrillo
Professional artist Monica Warhol is fiercely loyal, agreeably stimulating and attractive. Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Warhol moved to Tucson 13 years ago. Her sprawling ranch-style house on the northeast side doubles as a studio where she paints. It boasts a trampoline, an herb garden and a gallery of her original art. Although she is distantly related to the famous artist Andy Warhol, (his father and her grandfather were brothers), she downplays that connection, preferring to become successful on her own merit. She emphasizes, “It’s not about my name; it’s about a lot more than that.”
According to Warhol, she did not choose art; art chose her. “I was born an artist,” she says. The first award she ever won was in kindergarten for drawing a clown. She confides that at age 15, “I used to cut high school to go to the Art Institute, in Pittsburgh.” Warhol finished high school and trained professionally in fine art at Point Park University. There, she learned the basics, to which she adds her self-taught creative adaptations. “My art is completely organic; it comes out of my soul,” Warhol says. She adds, “I like flowers—I don’t like bugs at all. I’m a city girl. I’m a policeman’s daughter.”
Warhol is mother to six children, ranging from 21 months to 22 years old. She had her first child at age 17. “That’s how I could get the love I wanted,” she says. “If it wasn’t going to be from one end, you have to get it from the other end.” Raised in a middle-class family, her work ethic is derived from her father, who often worked two or three jobs. “I was raised to work. I know I’m a mom, obviously, but I don’t really identify myself as a mom,” she notes. “I’m an artist who has little people. It’s not my job to tell them who to be. It’s my job to be their training wheels and to catch them when they fall. It’s my job to lead by example.”
In spite of the effort she puts into her work, the rebellious Warhol doesn’t care if people like her art. She dismisses any criticism with a “let it go” philosophy, saying, “Do not care what people say about you. That’s really hard to do sometimes, because I live it. Do your best. Who cares? Who are they? What have they done?”
While bringing her visions to fruition independent of public acclaim is her goal, Warhol has garnered a strong following, including jet-set celebrity musician Lenny Kravitz. Her present runaway success has been a hard-fought battle. With humility and candor, she reveals, “I’ve lost my home, my vehicles and had nasty relationships.” Now she enjoys basking in the glow of her success, but she is not star struck, sharing, “It’s not about fame and it’s not about the money.”
Beyond her preoccupation with art, Warhol is focused on the premise that we are all in dire need of an updated sense of morality. She opines that a lot of young people exhibit a sense of entitlement, a trait she considers unattractive. Appreciating people that are honest and kind, she has an active social conscience. “I’m a giver,” she proclaims, and donates art to many local charities.
To stay fit, Warhol runs races, dances, jumps on the trampoline and doesn’t eat carbs. “I just busted out a half marathon. I’m such a loyal friend, and my girlfriend didn’t want to run the race alone. I wasn’t well trained to whip out 13.1, and I wasn’t expecting to finish it, but I sure did, and with a good time, two hours and 15 minutes.” Another hobby is dance. “I love to dance, I’m really good at it. I just got tap shoes on eBay and am excited about brushing up on my moves,” she says. One of Warhol’s favorite restaurants is Sushi on Oracle. “I love sushi. That’s how I like to celebrate when my painting’s done. I like to look at my art and feel pride. It took me 30-some years to say, ‘I’m proud of myself.’”
Warhol’s sense of pride is also reflected in her appearance. While she was overweight and teased as a child, now she is fit, but still doesn’t like to wear short dresses. “If I wear a dress, I prefer it to be a long dress, nothing above the knee, or it makes me nervous. It’s not that I look bad or anything, it just makes me feel exposed. I feel naked, and I don’t like that.” She does enjoy wearing really high heels. Her motto when it comes to shoes is, “If the shoe fits and looks good, you wear it. Then you just sit a lot.”
Nonetheless, this art whiz does have time to take in the beauty of the desert. An avid fan of Tucson’s sunrises, sunsets, mountains and the “crazy wildlife,” Warhol reveals an audacious preview of what is on the horizon when she says, “I’m totally redesigning Southwest Art. It is happening, and I won’t stop until I carry out my mission.”
Warhol takes private commissions and will paint anything, any size, conservative or pop. Locals and tourists can see her work exhibited at the Simon Fine Art Gallery, in Tucson. She is planning an expansion in 2015 to the second floor of the gallery, where the furniture and chandelier will all be custom made by Warhol and other local artists.
A prolific writer, her website includes a blog and favorite quotes, such as “It’s all about the journey, because you can’t take the destination with you.” Warhol’s journey includes an exuberant sense of determination. She counsels her children, “If you want something, don’t take no for an answer. You make it happen. And if it doesn’t happen, it’s because you didn’t try hard enough.”
For private commissions, email [email protected]. For more information, visit MonicaWarhol.com.
Suzie Agrillo is a regular contributor to Natural Awakenings Tucson.