Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Trey Speegle: I Inadvertently Designed Andy Warhol’s Gravestone

Hard to believe that it's been 36 years since Andy Warhol died -- and that I’m now only about two years younger than he was when he bought the farm. I've written about being at Graffiti's nightclub in Old Town Tempe dancing with my friend Chantal when the news broke in 1987. 

And now I see artist/writer Trey Speegle -- whose photo “Andy in the Limelight” (1986) is from the exhibit Trey Speegle: 80s Polaroids in Merida, Mexico --  has his own, far more memorable, recollection of the Pop art icon's death:

Andy Warhol died [36] years ago today. I told this story in Catherine Johnson’s book 'Thank You Andy Warhol.' Peter McGough lied in his book and said David [McDermott] had designed the poster, he did not. I did. 

When (Andy) died so suddenly it was like a punch in the gut; everybody was shaken up. In ‘86, Peter McGough and David McDermott, great friends of mine [at the time] had just returned from a year’s stay in Italy. They had brought this blank memorial poster back with them. When someone dies in Italy, they make this traditional poster at the printer, and plaster them all over the streets… 

I took a blank memorial poster with PAX (peace) and palm fronds and filled it in with his name and the dates of his birth and death. I replaced the illustration of praying hands in an oval with Andy’s high school yearbook picture, and added a quote from the bible. The type 'ANDY WARHOL' was Xeroxed from the headline of the New York Post that read 'ANDY WARHOL DEAD AT 58.'

I printed the poster and we had them plastered it all over downtown, and several were given to the art critic Diego Cortez. He in turn gave one to Andy’s brother. 

About a year later, I was at the gallery 56 Bleecker and I saw a grave rubbing of Andy’s headstone by my friend Scott Covert. My jaw dropped. 

It turns out Andy’s brother had given the poster to the gravestone maker, who used it as a template for the headstone. It’s black marble, the same size as the poster. The gravestone maker removed Andy’s picture and added back the praying hands. 

So, yes, I inadvertently designed Andy Warhol’s gravestone.

P.S. I finally got around to watching “The Andy Warhol Diaries" on Netflix and loved every minute of it. It made me happy to know there was a real person with feelings behind the fey facade.

Follow Trey on Instagram HERE.

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