Warhol gravesite notes to be published in book

Thousands visit famous artist's grave in Bethel Park

Published  7:01 AM HST Aug 29, 2013
BETHEL PARK, Pa. -

Madelyn Roehrig was an aspiring artist when she began her visits to Andy Warhol's gravesite at the St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery.

Although dead since 1987, the pop artist's colorful, cutting-edge work, along with his legendary persona, resonated heavily in Roehrig's world. 

She was drawn to his plot, not just to visit but to speak, and in her words, listen to Warhol speak back.

"Whenever I needed to talk about an artwork I was creating," said Roehrig.

Soon, she realized others adopted the same ritual, some preceding her visits and others after.

However, what really fascinated Roehrig were the number of Campbell's soup cans and personal notes visitors left behind.

Warhol produced a canvas of 32 Campbell's soup cans in 1962 as a commercial illustrator.

When Roehrig started her thesis project for her masters in fine art, she set out to collect personal notes at Warhol's gravesite from visitors willing to share.

Their messages to Warhol range from reverence and admiration, to problems in their personal lives and  strong belief in the afterlife.

Roehrig said the gravesite is a personal space for people to detach from where they are and connect with Warhol, wherever he is.

"Letting go of this world a little bit and thinking that he's listening on the other side.  They were leaving objects.  And then I wanted to know, who are these people?"

Roehrig now has more than 1,000 letters and notes left at Warhol's gravesite from people who watched him grow up in Pittsburgh, to visitors from around the world.

One note says, "Andy you are too amazing to even understand."

A child writes a note asking, "Dear Andy, why did you have to die?"

Two more notes left behind reflect personal beliefs, experiences or curiosity about the afterlife.

"I visited Andy's grave because I wanted to summon him from the dead using an Ouija board.  It is working," said one visitor.

And another visitor shares this experience: " I take walks through here with my client.  I work with children with special needs.  He has autism and is nonverbal.  He always makes a point to come to Andy's grave. He loves it for some unknown reason."

Part of Warhol's legacy centers on his openness regarding sexuality and homosexuality in particular.

Roehrig uncovered one gravesite note with the intention of bringing Warhol up to speed on an ever-progressing American society.

"Andy, I'm from Venezuela and I want to say 'hi' from all of your Venezuelan friends and tell you that being gay and famous is now good," read the note.

Roehrig is fascinated by these personal reflections so much, that she will publish them in a book, due out in August 2014.

"What is it telling us, not only about Andy and the legacy that he left here, on this earth, when he was here but in afterlife and how he's still resonating in people's lives."

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