Andy Warhol: Innovator of the Selfie, YouTube, Reality TV and Gay Cowboys

Andy Warhol 3 Multicolor Silkscreen
Andy Warhol Selfies

Human obsession with self-reflection is nothing new. Humans gaze at their reflection from time to time while passing by mirrors or store windows. Humans are quite taken with looking at faces, especially infants and artists. There are fairy-tales that feature infatuation with self-reflection such as, the story of Narcissus who was enamored with his own reflection and the Queen, who needed reassurance from her mirror that she is “the fairest of them all.” The Pop artist Andy Warhol was also obsessed with self-reflection as is clear in his series of portraits. Andy Warhol set into motion many of the technologies we use today like selfies, YouTube, Reality TV and progressive film making. Warhol was a hybrid artist; he created portraits, films and was a successful industrial manufacturer.


There was a decrease of portraits in the art world during the Abstract and Expressionist movements; Warhol breathed life back into portraits. Andy Warhol’s portraits and self-portraits or selfies were very simple. He used a photo-booth, a Polaroid, or press photographs for his portraits. Today’s selfies are just as simple, one click from a cell phone and another click to circle the globe. Warhol was aware of society’s need of instant gratification and selfie portraits helped to satiate this want. While there are apps that allow for a selfie to morph into different appearances in a matter of clicks, Warhol could display his selfies with grace. For example, Warhol morphed his selfie with an exploration into his inner psyche and celebrated his sexuality. His effort to morph his female side is very alluring in his Polaroid collection titled Self-Portrait in Drag.

Andy Warhol Self Portraits in Drag
Andy Warhol Self-Portrait in Drag 1980-1981


Andy Warhol Marilyn Monroe
Andy Warhol Marilyn Monroe

Andy Warhol created selfies as well as portraits of popular people. He created portraits of celebrities in the film industry, politics, art patrons, models and celebutants those famous just for being famous. His celebrity portraits began as photographs, again from photo-booths, Polaroid’s, or published photos. His portrait of the film star Marilyn Monroe and former First Lady Jackie Kennedy are very well-recognized images. Art patrons paid handsomely for the opportunity to have a portrait created by Warhol; his fee was $40,000. If Warhol was alive today perhaps he would create portraits of the Kardashins including Bruce Jenner’s transformation akin to Warhol’s Self-Portrait in Drag. Warhol also experimented with film and created some avant garde portraits.

Andy Warhol created over 525 films 472 of those were Screen Tests. In these screen tests a person would sit in front of the camera with no direction or script or plot, for three minutes. One of the more popular screen tests was the portrait of Edie Sedgwick who was an American heiress, a model and starred in many of his other films. For her screen test she sat looking into the camera, blinking, and a slight tilt of her head; similar to how most people seem on their computer camera. Warhol captured these three minutes on black-and-white film and then played them back at a slower speed so that he could create a moving portrait. This screen test is also similar to live feed on the Internet or a YouTube video. Warhol stated, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes.” This quote is true when a YouTube video goes viral. Warhol also did some experimental films that were longer and focused on the realities in human behavior.

Andy Warhol Screen Test 3 Edie Sedgwick

Experimental Films

Warhol created films such as Kiss, Sleep and Eat; these titles are the realities of being human. The film Kiss was shot in 16 mm black-and-white film and transferred to digital files, and the length of this film was 54 minutes. It was a silent film with couples kissing for three minutes. Warhol created an even longer film title Sleep this black-and-white slow motion fixed frame film lasted for five hours and twenty minutes. It features Warhol and his companion poet John Giorno sleeping for over five hours. Was Warhol onto something here did he bring about the Reality TV shows that are supposed to be unscripted, no direction and just real life? But wait; there’s more Warhol created a feature-length Western film in Arizona. So what? Well, this was a western with a twist it was about gay cowboys. Yes, Warhol created Lonesome Cowboys in 1968. Perhaps, Warhol set the stage for Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain in 2005?

Andy Warhol's "Lonesome Cowboys" wrestling scene

Industrialist Manufacturer

As a manufacturer of Pop art Warhol understood societies love of instant gratification; in addition, to society’s need of self-admiration. Warhol brilliantly used industrialized tools like the photo-booth and Polaroid’s as a catalyst for instant gratification and to procure handsome portrait commissions. Warhol also understood societies need for consumerism. Industrial manufacturing produced volumes of consumer items for the masses. Warhol used common household items and turned them into works of art like the Brillo cartons, Coca-Cola bottles and the famous Campbell Soup cans. These silk screen prints reflected consumerism and made Warhol a household name as well.

Perpetually Immortal

Warhol paved the way for selfies, experimental videos like YouTube and exploratory film formats for Reality TV. He was so far-reaching that he created a film in the 1960s about homosexual cowboys that possibly furnished the foundation for the award-winning film Brokeback Mountain. Warhol was quite innovative in his artistic creations and the influence his work had on society and consumerism. Why even today Warhol is experimenting with film. He has a live feed to his burial grounds; you can watch his grave site at anytime. He continues to stay in touch with us in his figment.

I never understood why when you died, you didn’t just vanish, and everything could just keep going on the way it was only you just wouldn’t be there. I always thought I’d like my own tombstone to be blank. No epitaph and no name.

Well, actually, I’d like it to say “figment.”

Andy Warhol Gravesite
Live camera of Andy Warhol’s gravesite

Works Cited

Gravesite Web. 2 May 2011.

Kiss. Dir. Andy Warhol Perf. Rufus Collins, Johnny Dodd, Fred Herko, Naomi Levine. 1963. Film.

Lonesome Cowboys. Dir. Andy Warhol, Paul Morrissey. Perf. Viva, Tom Hompertz, Louis Waldon. Andy Warhol Films. 1968. Film.

Screen Tests. Dir. Andy Warhol Perf. Edie Segwick, Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg. 1964-1966. Film.

Sleep. Dir. Andy Warhol Perf. Andy Warhol and John Giorno. 1963. Film.

The Andy Warhol Museum Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. 1998.

Warhol, Andy. Marilyn Monroe. 1962. Oil, Acrylic, and silkscreen enamel on canvas. Collection Jasper Johns, New York.

Warhol, Andy. Self-Portrait in Drag. 1980-1981. Polaroid’s. The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

Posted on by
Rhetorical writer exploring the ethos, pathos, and logos in art, literature, and film.
Edited by Thomas Munday.

Want to write about Arts or other art forms?

Create writer account


  1. His work and vision suffered later on because the times changed and he lost relevance. This is true of many artists though.

    • Ryan Errington

      Personally I feel Warhol is overrated. He had a good idea with the Monroe portrays, then seemed to exhaust the idea. I do not see the artistic worth of Warhol’s later works, it seems to be rather exploitative due to the misguided individuals who wandered into The Factory.

      • Jacque Venus Tobias

        Ryan I understand your statement. While Warhol’s work was not executed with fine reserve it was more of a sociologist expression of what was going on in many sects of society. I learned far more about him while researching than what I learned in art class. It is great to see an artist express themselves in various mediums and not be boxed into one medium or genera. I also appreciate the business aspect of his work. He was not the starving artist at $40,000 for a portrait sitting calculating the minimal expense for materials. I respect the business side. As for the sociology, the film making, living a life he wanted to and not what someone else expects one to do is gratifying. And if I where anywhere near The Factory you would in deed find me having a blast.

  2. I can’t remember which critic said it, but the remark summed up my feelings about Warhol exactly: he said that if the Germans had won WW2, rich Nazis would be collecting Warhols.

    • Jacque Venus Tobias

      Yes, Jimmie I can across reference to WWII and something like what you are speaking of. Thanks for that reminder.

  3. He was an astute social commentator. At least in the 60s, quite original.

    • Jacque Venus Tobias

      Very well said Coen, he portrayed society very well and there are still remnants of that mindset available to us today.

  4. One of Warhol’s themes was boredom. He utilized repetition to reflect the boredom and purposelessness of modern urban life.

    • Jacque Venus Tobias

      Some would say the repetition was industrialization and mass production of material items. Another comment on society and how we collect and produce material items. More, more, more of the same thing over and over. And yes this does lead to boredom. Thank you for your addition.

  5. As a student, I remember going on a course trip to a Warhol show at the Tate as it then was (now the Tate Britain). I found that, to my disappointment, much of the classic work struck me as pretty empty and unmemorable – the Brillo pad boxes, the Campbell’s soup tin paintings and the flowers prints, which seemed particularly bland.

    My favourite piece among the screenprinted exhibits was the cow wallpaper, which seemed finely judged and funny – Beano-ish, if not quite Kurtzmanesque. At the time I had a little laugh at that, as I did at the lecturer’s comment. It always seemed to me that, apart from his creation of his superstar public image, Warhol’s most powerful work was as a film maker. I think that if you want to argue that ‘the paradox of Warhol – and his greatness – is that every time he seems to lose himself in the inane or trivial, he humanises it’, the best evidence for this is going to turn up in one of the films, not in a painting or a print, however influential the Velvets may sound as a show soundtrack.

    • Jacque Venus Tobias

      Junkoo, I loved the cow, I was taken by surprise; why is this purple cow here and it made me smile too. Yes, there is disappointment in the common daily items of the Brillo pad boxes but it was the culture at the time he was reflecting how life could be a little disappointing at times- not unlike our present time. Yes, I saw a declaration from Warhol stating “I am no longer a painter I am a film maker.” He did some trail blazing films. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with his work up close and personal.

  6. OnaLind

    Andy Warhol was a fucking genius.

  7. “One of the stupidest people I’ve ever met in my life.” — Robert Hughes.

    • Jacque Venus Tobias

      Who is Robert Hughes? I know Warhol but now I will have to look up who Robert Hughes is, thanks a lot. 🙂

  8. He was the greatest artist of the late 20th Century, a giant.

    • Jacque Venus Tobias

      Yes, his name is very well recognized as well as his very commercialized pieces. Someday perhaps, his films will be just as recognized.

  9. I like Warhol!

    • Jacque Venus Tobias

      Yes, he makes me smile. I remember I had written his name on my jeans in black ink and my father said I know who he is so- intergenerational artist.

  10. It must be twenty years since I came across an Andy Warhol take I’d not seen before. Great work.

    • Jacque Venus Tobias

      Thank you Cooler; the story started evolving when I went to a museum hosting his work while construction was going on at The Andy Warhol Pittsburgh museum. Ideas started clicking and linking, I appreciate your observance regarding the ideas I am expressing.

  11. He (with the other pop artists) enlarged the subject matter of art and made it reflect reality in a way which hadn’t been done before and was totally appropriate to the times he lived in.

  12. I’m not a very big fan of his work. Actually he is a kind of one trick phoney…
    BUT!!!!!! A very very very important figue in the history of art.

  13. Thomson

    Brilliant. Love him!

  14. So Yoon

    Anyone who moans that he was fake and merely advertising, I don’t wanna say they don’t get it cos they might get it and not like it.

  15. Warhol, the man that proved that plagiarism pays, big time.

    • I agree. Grab a dictionary and you will see Warhol = pretentious poser.

      In fact one of a group of pretentious posers surrounded by wanna be film and pop stars and lauded by self important media hacks who ran around with them getting off their face and going home with a hangover and a dose of the clap from the star struck hangers on at ‘exclusive’ partys.

    • Some people just don’t understand postmodernism.

      They hear that word and immediately think “pretentious.”

      Some people just don’t understand the history of art

      Some people just don’t understand art.

    • fake – fraud – impostor – phony – pretender – sham – usurper etc…

      • Jacque Venus Tobias

        It is an artist’s motivation to invoke emotion, and it appears several passions have been ignited in this debate. Thanks for sharing your passionate points of view.

  16. Benjamin

    People knock Warhol but I like his fascination with the rich and beautiful which he carried on into the seventies. So glamorous and decadent. I like the contrast between his background and appearance and the world he loved and built around him from nothing but his ambition.

    • Jacque Venus Tobias

      Andrew Warhola’s background was less than glamorous I agree. Fortunately, he took his skills in advertising/graphic art to New York and became successful in that field. The ambition, decadence and association with the “beautiful people” enhanced his life as considerably as he enhanced, theirs, mine and many others. Thank you so greatly for your comment!

  17. Pringle

    I think the best stuff were his Death series.

  18. Cornell

    Thanks for the read – fascinating article of course!

  19. He painted what he liked the way he liked it (i.e. like a good commercial illustrator that he was).

  20. Andy Warhol has inspired many in interesting ways.

  21. I just don’t see a cynical business artist in Warhol’s work. It’s the idea of him people don’t like… But it’s like rejecting the mirror because it shows your face.

  22. Zachary Ward

    I imagine that if her were still alive he would collaborate with Lady Gaga. They both have a sort of unique, self-aware approach to fame, pop culture, and consumerism.

  23. Joane Stump

    Warhol was a graphic artist – and for pop images he works fine.

  24. Francisco de la Rosa

    Wow I never thought to analyze Warhol in this way, but it is definitely no surprise that he was ahead of the times. Makes you wonder which current artists are innovators like him.

    • Jacque Venus Tobias

      Thank you Francisco for grasping the essence of the article and yes, which artist is the setting stage for the future?

  25. I like Andy Warhol and I read the Jean Stein/George Plimpton biography of Edie Sedgwick when it came out. I read it so many times, it is very well thumbed. It is probably the best book on the sixties. I went to see a load of Warhol films back to back a long time ago and was the only person to stay through to the end. The people connected to him were really crazy and we won’t find that kind of ambience now.

  26. Jacque Venus Tobias

    Zhang- thank you so much for sharing your experience with Warhol and his work, especially on his work with film. Good for you for staying until the end!

  27. Wow, very well written! Easy to follow and straight to the point! Such a fun read 🙂 I can’t wait to share this, especially with my Mom, she’s a huge Warhol fan!

    Thanks again! Hope to read more from you soon!

  28. Though he drifted out of relevance later in his career (as others have noted) it is hard to overestimate Warhol’s influence on contemporary Western (especially American) popular culture. Nice speculative connection between Lonesome Cowboys and Brokeback Mountain.

    • Jacque Venus Tobias

      Thank you Robert for your comment. “Speculative” is the perfect word choice regarding the tie in to Lonesome Cowboy and Brokeback Moutain. It is grand to see all the adventurous spirits speaking their minds on this article.

  29. This is a pretty interesting take on Warhol’s impact on our media culture. It seems like there are similarities between what we do today and what Warhol did. However Warhol wasn’t the first and not the last to obsess over self gratification and beauty. After all many painters were focused on capturing faces and bodies. The gay cowboy connection needs more support. I had no idea Warhol did a gay cowboy movie and that’s really interesting. However, that’s a long time difference between that film and Brokeback Mountain. Many cowboy movies were made in between that point. Did Warhol’s movie influence the Western genre after the release?

    • Jacque Venus Tobias

      Marcus, hello. Thank you for stopping by and supporting this article. I would like to respond in part to the fact that you mentioned the time difference between Lonesome Cowboy and Brokeback Mountain. I want to say that it took a long time for Western society to embrace the theme in these two films. It took that long for this theme to be discussed in a mainstream film. However, with this timing it did do well in award recognitions.

  30. This is really cool. I think Warhol tapped into the cultural zeitgeist of the time by overlapping his enjoyment of art, literature, music, and film. I think this interdisciplinary mode of expression makes him particularly influential and relatable to today’s technology mediated world where no work exists in isolation from other mediums.

    • Jacque Venus Tobias

      JBow what an astute synopsis of the article; I appreciate your comment very much. In-as-much that I will quote your words for copy when referencing this article on some of my intended platforms. With Much Grace and Gratitude ~Venus

  31. The article is great.
    Warhol made great films that is unique.

    His works showed his true self.
    True artwork that shows beauty and grace in simple forms.

    This article indeed is well studied.Great job!

  32. Jacque Venus Tobias

    Louise, thank you for the endearing words and thank you for supporting The Artifice and our collective of writers. With Grace ~Venus

  33. Jeff MacLeod

    This is an interesting article, I agree that Warhol really anticipated the social media age; he was really a head of his time.

  34. Jacque Venus Tobias

    Jeff, thank you for your comment, now the scary part what do we have to look forward to in the future in the way of social media?!

  35. Rachel Watson

    What a fascinating article! I knew so little about Warhol before reading this, and now I feel like I have a new appreciation. I’m especially intrigued by Warhol as a filmmaker. Both clips, but especially the one from “Lonesome Cowboys,” has really piqued my interest to learn more about how Warhol blended his sexual identity with his artistic endeavors in its many forms.

  36. Everyone wants to be relevant and Warhol serves as a common context for the definition of “cool”. As his work seems to demand attention for its purposeful lack of the unique; in the most basic way he forces the viewer to consider one’s place within all of it. Should we not be embarrassed that we gawk in fascination at Campbell’s Soup Cans or Marilyn? Is Warhol really laughing at the art world posthumously? With all of these thoughts, one point remains clear; Warhol is timelessly relevant because his work reflects the driving force of contemporary society in perpetuity. Another selfie, another Tweet, connected through the world of social media; Warhol’s promise serves to mirror who we are, pointing to our shallow, materialistic, and even narcissistic tendencies. Rest in Peace, Andy, as we try to become famous for the sake of being famous!

  37. Jacque Venus Tobias

    Remarkably poignant anaylsis of our contemporary western society. We have indeed placed a measurable value on the concept of fame for fames sake. It is troubling how society worships fame and those who attach themselves to being famous without really contributing anything substantial to our society. I do like your question “Is Warhol really laughing at the art world posthumously?” I like to think the answer is yes; either way the question brings a smile to my face. Thank you ever so much for stopping by and delivering such thought provoking words. Cheers!

  38. I honestly did not know about most of these works by Warhol… and am intrigued by the seemingly direct link between Warhol and today’s social media-influenced culture! So crazy! I must say, though, I was very disappointed when watching a Warhol interview. When asked how he created a particular piece, Warhol actually TOLD the interviewer that he did not know… that he had someone else create his work. I know this was probably as he aged, but still… to SAY that out loud in a national interview?!

  39. larissacouto

    Warhol is present. Can you exhibit your Instagram photos in a gallery and call it art? Yes, but is it a way to reflect about our everyday life in an ironic sense? Yes, but, then, who is the artist? Everyone with an Instagram account? I think that the answer is negative. The artist is the one putting things separately and pointing it. She/he tells us “look,” and make us stop and see, even to say that it shouldn’t be art, but isn’t the art what make us reflect about what is “so normal”? Warhol is still present.

  40. albee

    We may have finally become contemporaries of Warhol. He was a remarkable artist, and far ahead of his time. Are we living in his imagination?

  41. Ah such a cool personality. Warhol seems to have predicted the way we live now. Everyone has their “15 minutes of fame.”

  42. I know that his personal tastes in art were very different to what he created ultimately.

Leave a Reply