Created in 1981, Myths consists of ten screenprints meant to capture the imaginary characters popular during the 20th century in American pop culture. Most of the images used were taken from history, literature, classic Hollywood films and television from the 1950s.
Some of the famous American myths used are popular children’s characters such as Santa Claus and Mickey Mouse. To him these characters represent childhood innocence. On the contrary, he also portrays the evilest of villains that were universally recognized during his life, The Wicked Witch of the West and Dracula.
His portrayal of famous television and movie actors like John Wayne and Howdy Doody fed into his obsession with fame and stardom. Other portraits represent modern day heroes of the 1960s with his portraits of Superman and Uncle Sam.
In his Myths portfolio, Warhol takes these recognizable characters and portrays them in the eccentric fashion he used for all his images. They are brightly colored and some are also inlaid with diamond dust. For example, “The Witch”, taken from 1939s The Wizard of Oz, is portrayed in a green tone, cackling and frightening as ever.
His use of the comic book hero Superman stems from his childhood when he was diagnosed with an immobilizing sickness and spent the majority of his time with comic books and movie magazines to keep him occupied. He was so preoccupied by his physical appearance, constant ailments, anxiety and insecurities that he found great appeal in the character of Clark Kent who goes through this transformation of mild mannered and looked-over to this great superhero.
He also had a great obsession with Christmas, which explains his inclusion of Santa Claus in his Myths series. He also created Christmas related drawings of wreaths, Christmas trees, poinsettias and ornaments, some of which were recently featured in a Christmas Auction for Christie’s in 2013.
Warhol’s portrait of the Disney character Mickey Mouse, was said to have been done because he himself wanted to be Mickey Mouse, or at least his own Disney character.
In his piece titled, “The Shadow” he portrays himself as the 1930s radio crime fighter from his childhood. He portrays himself as the hero. He glances at the viewer while his profile casts a long, dramatic shadow.
Unlike traditional mythological figures, Greek gods and goddesses, the motifs Warhol used in Myths capture the modern imagination and portray America’s powerful and enchanted past. They represent fantasies, hopes, dreams, and fears. It is widely known that each of these mythical and iconic figures was chosen to represent specific aspects of Warhol’s personality — a personality that could only be captured by such animated and colorful characters.