Aurora Garrison | November 2017
Andy Warhol is portrayed by actor Evan Peters in American Horror Story’s new season Cult in the historical dramatic episode, “Valerie Solanas Died for Your Sins: Scumbag” exploring the circumstances and motives surrounding the tragic 1968 shooting of Warhol that forever changed his art, his life and shocked the nation and world in the turbulent Sixties.
At the time of the attempted murder of Warhol, he was the most prolific artist of his time and a world-renowned celebrity. To mass produce his constant output of prints and paintings, Warhol collected a group of artist followers, the upper tier of them were dubbed “Superstars,” to work in his studio “The Factory.” His group of admirers consisted mainly of writers, artists and filmmakers.
The episode traces Valerie Solanas (played by Lena Dunham), a radical feminist and writer, who attempts to murder Warhol after the artist refuses to recognize and produce a film script she had written.
Historically, Warhol’s June 3, 1968 attempted murder occurred in the most turbulent summer of American history. The Warhol shooting occurred two months flowing the assassination of Martin Luther King. Two days after Warhol’s shooting, Presidential candidate Robert Kennedy was gunned down on June 5, 1968. Then, the social, cultural and racial tensions erupted in riots at the Chicago Democratic Convention, protesting the Vietnam War August 28, 1968.
Warhol’s brush with death would greatly influence his work for years to come, as he dealt with his long, painful and tedious recovery. As a result, the artist went on to produce his Death and Disaster series as well as in his Guns and Knives paintings in the 1970’s and 80’s. Warhol even depicted the same .32 automatic revolver that Valerie Solanas shot him with in his Gun painting from 1981-82. This particular work is on display at Revolver Gallery and embodies the personal significance it had for Warhol in its medium – the canvas deviates from the artist’s conventional mass-produced prints – and the close, unnerving cropping of the image.
Season seven of American Horror Story features historical movements and powerful cult leaders over the twentieth century like Charles Manson, David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Andy Warhol. While Warhol did not possess a frighteningly dangerous group of followers, the artist was an international icon in his own lifetime and had a loyal group of devotees. “Valerie Solanas Died for Your Sins: Scumbag” and other episodes from AHS:Cult promise to be over-the-top, entertaining and nerve-racking experiences.