Madelyn Visits Warhol's Grave Daily Since '09

Published On November 20, 2013 | By Matt Gondek | Community

Andy Warhol PittsburghOn February 9th 2009, Madelyn Roehrig photographed the tombstone of famed pop artist Andy Warhol. She did it again the next day and the day after. She’s been doing it every day since.

Warhol died in 1987 but lives on in the minds of those who visit his grave site to leave gifts and “speak” to him. “Figments: Conversations with Andy” is Madelyn’s project to document the inspiration Warhol has left behind.

I met with Madelyn on a Wednesday morning at Andy’s grave in Bethel Park. For a man who has an entire museum dedicated to him, his eternal resting place is very humble. What the tombstone lacks in size, it more than makes up for with adornments. Soup cans, photographs, & other trinkets literally cover the grave. A plastic folder packed with notes & drawings for Andy also resides here.

Madelyn has been collecting and documenting these gifts now for five years. She photographs and scans them, then posts them to a Facebook page where viewers can see the photos and leave their own messages. Madelyn explained that the sheer amount of notes and gifts are a result of the many sides of Andy’s life.

She describes it as “The Four Andys“. People classify Warhol’s life in four different ways.

There are the people who knew the Pittsburgh Andy – those that grew up with him or knew him personally while he lived in Pittsburgh. These people will leave stories of growing up with Warhol or going to Schenley High School with him.

People who knew the New York Andy tell stories like working with him at an event and almost dropping a light on his head. Another woman tells a story about how pale he looked close to his death.

The “Andy Everywhere” people never knew Andy personally, but leaned of him through his work or the media. They leave notes about how he has inspired them in their own lives or how his work has had such an influence on them.

Lastly, there’s “Andy Afterlife“, or people who speak with him as if he’s a saint. They’ll bring rosaries, religious figures, and sometimes holy water. These people will speak with Andy about a situation or problem in their own life.
Madelyn also talked about an “Andy Hotline” she had set up in the first year of the project. People would call and leave messages for Andy. Most of the messages would be light and fun while others would call and pour their hearts out. Ultimately the messages became too much to handle and the idea was scraped. In its place, the Facebook page is now used to document visitors.

In addition to uploading on Facebook, Madelyn has also compiled each year’s photos into videos. “Figments: Andy’s Tombstone, 04.01.11 – 12.31.12” was purchased as the Acquisition Award from the 102nd Pittsburgh Associated Artists Annual Exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art, showing daily tombstones as a minute and twenty seconds of looping photos with minor effects added for visual punch. She is currently piecing together videos for every year.

Andy’s life has definitely resonated with the world, and although he passed more than 25 years ago, he is still making an impact. His grave site is now on Earthcam which allows people to “send” flowers and other gifts from around the world and watch them be delivered live. There are parties every year on his birthday at the grave. “Andy would of loved all this attention” says Madelyn. In a world of social media and live video, Andy is definitely getting more than his fifteen minutes of fame.

You can read more from Matt, & see his illustration portfolio at his website. He can be reached on twitter.

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