I am the author of three middle-grade children's books, and I blog on the side. My favorite topics are movies, writing, and pop culture.
Andy Warhol's burial plans
Some people have very clear plans for when they die. Some want to be buried. Some want to be cremated. Some want to donate their bodies to science. Andy Warhol was very clear about his plans, once stating:
But just as you don’t get what you want in life, Andy did not get his wish either, at least not in the literal sense. After passing away from complications of gallbladder surgery in 1987, Andy Warhol was buried at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery in Bethel Park, PA, just outside of Pittsburgh.
His tombstone is uncharacteristically traditional: simply his name, his date of birth (August 6, 1928), his date of death (February 22, 1987) and images of a cross and praying hands. His fans took care of that, however. Andy’s grave has become a popular spot for his admirers to visit, and they have dressed up his grave with his unique style.
Warhol's Grave as it looked in 2012
Warhol's gravesite is adorned with his signature Campbell’s soup cans, Coke bottles, pop culture images, flowers, notes and other gifts brought by fans throughout the year. In typical Andy fashion, the gravesite is now recorded 24/7 on EarthCam (watch a live feed here).
An ongoing art project titled “Figments: Conversations with Andy” by Madelyn Roehrig, takes place at the site. A folder of paper and markers remains next to the grave where visitors can write notes to Andy. Roehrig collects these notes and posts them on the Facebook group titled “Conversations With Andy.” On his birthday, Roehrig throws a party around the gravestone where all are invited to participate and celebrate the life of this unique artist.
These efforts have helped to fulfill Warhol’s wish of his life's work continuing after his death. What would otherwise be an unimpressive gravestone in a dull cemetery overlooking a busy road, far from his adopted New York City has become a colorful patch of land in an unlikely spot where Andy’s work continues to inspire the hundreds fans who make the trip to see him each year.
Andy's parents’ equally modest grave sits directly behind his, Andrej and Julia Warhola. Their gravestone is finely decorated as well but its offerings consist mostly of flowers. They take a back seat to their famous son but are still able to spend eternity looking after him.
The Warhola grave stone overlooking their famous son.
A tribute to an artist
Though in both life and death you don’t always get what you want, sometimes other people can give you what you want. In Andy Warhol’s case, his fans recognized the impact that he made on the world and helped to make their hero the “figment” that he desired to be.
It is important to recognize people’s wishes, and visiting Warhol’s grave offers the visitor a burst of color in a mundane surrounding and the continuation of his legacy long after he has gone. It is not just about putting silly trinkets on a slab of stone; it is about granting wishes and honoring an artist's life. It may not be the tribute that he asked for, but it's a tribute that gives back what he put out into the world.
What are your dying wishes? What legacy do you want to leave? Leave your response in the comments below.
A map to St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery
Andy Warhol websites
Laura Smith (author) from Pittsburgh, PA on May 31, 2014:
Thanks for reading. That sounds like a good afterlife.
Suzanne Day from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on May 30, 2014:
I'd really like a big bunch of succulents and a stick of incense on mine. Plus I'd like people to be able to come and have a BBQ graveside if they felt like it. Voted beautiful and up! Really enjoyed your concept.
Jessie on May 29, 2014:
I would want Ouija board markers on mine, because even in death, I would always want to talk