Written by Luis Luna and co-writer Linita Masters
Artists Debbie Carfagno and Michael Enns, both former Master Printers for pop-art icon Andy Warhol, demonstrated and discussed his innovative silkscreen process. I had the honor of sitting down with both Debbie and Michael while they shared some of their experiences working with Andy at the legendary Factory.
Debbie and Michael worked for Warhol in the late 70’s until his death in 1987. Enns and Carfagno were welcomed into Andy Warhol’s art world at a time when Warhol had garnered little respect as an artist. Warhol’s encouragement in letting everyone input their own ideas into his work was widely criticized, which made it a difficult time to produce the kind of art he envisioned. Blurring the lines between commercial art and fine art was unheard of at that time. Warhol was all about everybody’s opinions and what people liked. Mixing celebrities, sports, and everyday products into his painting was something people were waiting for, even if they didn’t know it yet. He was not the “my way goes” kind of guy. Andy loved for everyone to contribute to a list of ideas, giving many different options and directions to choose from. Young talents and fresh BFA graduates were the best resources for Andy’s art. For a little bit of money, you are getting many ideas in your artwork, “That was his genius”! Debbie said.
It was not all fun and games at the Factory, but it was a very physically demanding job. Time was always a big factor. Prep process was the key for each of Warhol’s paintings. It always started with an idea, then making sure the idea would work on the screen with the image. The most challenging part was ensuring that all the editions were uniform. Fumes and toxins were in the atmosphere at the Factory. Fans needed to air dry the art caused too little ventilation that would often give your lunch a toxic taste. Then came the waiting game. Waiting for the painting to air dry took its time, especially if doing two or three coats. “Andy was very demanding,” said Michael. After conceiving the idea set up, Andy would come back an hour later expecting for it to be done. “C’ mon Andy, it does not work that way,” Michael would say to him. “Everyday work hours depended on the pressure of what we were doing. We had to get certain things done”, Michael said.” If the silkscreen worked, then came the Mule Run. With Rupert Smith’s print shop on the other side of town, we would travel on the subway to Warhol’s work rolled inside of tubes. At that time, we were carrying hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of art. Now that same work we had in our hands at the time is well worth over 300 million dollars. We had no idea we were printing money!” added Enns.
The best part of completing the series was the opening that followed. In 1982, the release of the Dollar Signs at the Leo Castelli Gallery was a great memory for Michael. He was only 22 years old when he saw most of the Dollar signs works he helped create and color match up on the wall and being admired by so many people. “It was mind-blowing,” Michael said. Those were the great memories and what kept Michael enjoying what he did. Michael recalled an interesting story from that Dollar Signs opening. “I had a white dinner jacket were I had a Dollar sign printed on the back that I had Andy sign at the opening. Immediately after the event was over, as soon I stepped outside, I tripped over a curve on the sidewalk, fell into a puddle, and completely dirtied the jacket. So many things came to my mind. Should I have it cleaned? However, then the signature will get faded. Eventually I sold the jacket a year after Andy’s death”.
Andy Warhol would have been all over the computer using today’s media and technology. Social media today, such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, would have fit perfectly with his “Star Struck” lifestyle. He would have loved the idea of picking up his phone and snapping a picture. Reality T.V. would have been all about Andy, as he was one of the first to have a reality show, “Andy Warhol Television”. It would likely have been a more conceptual mass media and the whole art world would have followed his lead. Debbie and Michael were both influenced by Andy. Warhol’s art process changed both of their lives. Carfagno and Enns both love the idea of producing works that take different steps to process. It pushes them to be better and willing to experiment in various ways to perfect their artwork. Events like these, take them back to their Factory days. The memory of the people, the environment, and the feel of that “winning formula” (the silk screening process) are forever imprinted on them.
People from all over the country attended the “Unseen Warhol” opening to witness this honorable event. Ray and Daang Goodman arrived Thursday morning from New York to attend. “It is a pleasure and honor to be invited to a piece of living history, not many of his workers are alive today. To see a demonstration of Andy’s silk screening process is exciting!”, said Ray Goodman.
Also in attendance was Michael Enns old friend from Seal Beach, John Webster, who also met Andy Warhol during Michael’s time at the Factory. “I have not seen Michael since 1989!” When he had heard about the event, it was a no-brainer that John would be at the opening. He would not have missed it for the world. “This is rare and exciting. People have the opportunity to witness two of Andy’s right-hand people here and alive is a total bliss!”
There was a full house of 200 plus people, all focusing their attention towards Debbie and Michael as they approached the stage. “HOLA, COMO ESTAN!” Michael said. You could hear the giggles throughout the room and the energy picking up. An introduction followed. The audience quickly picked up on Michael’s great sense of humor. Debbie started demonstrating the silk screening process. They had prepared an Angelina Jolie portrait as a frame to show how the colors are applied. Her detailed step by step description of the process had the people mesmerized throughout the demonstration. You could hear people saying “WOW!” followed by applause after every step of the silk-screening process. Hands were constantly waving in the air by the audience waiting to have their questions answered. One of the questions came from John Dupree, who asked, “How much technology was involved in Andy’s work”? “Great question, but, unfortunately, there wasn’t enough technology in his time for him to mess around with,” Debbie explained.
Debbie and Michael offered the audience an opportunity to get “Warhol-ed”. With a photo booth set up on the front floor of the gallery, people had their portrait taken, they were able to have their portrait produced with Warhol’s screening process. Smiles and cheers were all you saw throughout the gallery as the presentation came to an end. As the audience, we experienced an incredible event. Debbie and Michael shared their memories and re-lived an unforgettable time with Andy Warhol at the Factory, this time without the fumes.
For the first time ever, both artists have joined forces to offer our clients the rare opportunity to commission a one-of-a-kind Warhol-style portrait. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own an original Pop Art portrait of yourself, a dear pet or someone you love! Make sure to inquire within.
Originally published on www.hamiltonselway.com