Like any great actor on the world stage, Andy Warhol played many parts — prince of Pop art, celebrity, filmmaker and provocateur.
To the seven children of Paul and Anne Warhola, he was Uncle Andy.
That is why fashion photographer Abby Warhola, the artist’s great-niece, and her partner, artist Jesse Best, are making a feature-length documentary titled “Uncle Andy,” in which Warhola family members recall their famous relative’s boyhood in Pittsburgh, memorable visits to his New York residence and the many stages of his commercial success and fame.
To finance the feature-length documentary, the couple are planning to launch a Kickstarter campaign this week with a goal of raising $175,000 in 31 days. They have been interviewing family members for eight years.
“Everyone still has their family. That’s the one area where they let their guard down and they are themselves,” Best said in a telephone interview last week.
For the past eight years, the couple have lived in Pittsburgh in the home where Warhol resided with his parents, Andrej and Julia Warhola, and two older brothers, Paul and John.
After Andrej Warhola died, Paul Warhola became the family patriarch and looked after his younger brother, encouraging him to become an artist. Before Paul Warhola died at age 91 in January 2014, the couple recorded 10 hours of interviews with him.
“He would tell us these really great stories that no one had ever heard before. We wanted to preserve it and turn it into something greater,” Best said.
Paul and Anne Warhola’s seven children — Paulie, Eve, Mary Lou, George, Madalen, Marty and James — have all been interviewed. Madalen Warhola Hoover, who lives in West Mifflin, Pa., is Abby Warhola’s mother.
“They saw every level of progression of fame that he experienced. We can share that,” Best said.
Best, 37, studied film at Edinboro University. In 2000, he was a script supervisor on “The Bread, My Sweet” and also worked as second unit script supervisor on “The Mothman Prophecies.” He worked on “Unstoppable,” the Denzel Washington movie that was shot in Pittsburgh in 2009, and “The Road,” which starred Viggo Mortensen.
Best and Abby Warhola, 30, have a 7-year-old daughter named Veva. Best, a professional artist, works in a studio in an old Victorian-era building near their home where Andy Warhol grew up at 3252 Dawson St. It’s a tall, narrow three-bedroom house with original woodwork and floors.
Best has not applied for grants or accepted money from people who offered to help finance the project because he said the family has been exploited in the past.
“We wanted to wait until we could do this completely independently. We could just tell their story without any other intentions.”
The film also will describe the mentality of blue-collar workers in Pittsburgh and how that mindset shaped Warhol and his work ethic. The couple usually shoot digital footage on a Canon Mark 3 but also have used Bolex 16 millimeter, the film Warhol used to make his famous screen tests at The Factory in New York City.
Rick Armstrong, spokesman for The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, said the staff is supportive of the project but is not involved with financing or producing the documentary, which he believes will give people a different take on the artist.
“I think the viewer is going to be very surprised,” Armstrong said. “They are going to learn a side of Andy that they’ve never read or seen before. It’s a sweet family story. They knew a different man than what Warhol projected.”
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