Warhol in Colorado: Mark Sink's 15 Minutes of Fame
When the exhibit Warhol in Colorado opens for public viewing today at DU's Myhren Gallery, one of the show's major components will include photos taken of Warhol by Colorado photographers in the early '80s, when the pop artist visited Fort Collins amid much hoopla for a major exhibition of his works, assembled by noted collectors Jon and Kimiko Powers, at the Colorado State University campus. Mark Sink was both a bicycle racer and an aspiring photographer when Andy Warhol came to Fort Collins, in town himself for a bike race (during which he crashed near finish line, resulting in a bad case of road rash). When he heard that Andy Warhol was in town, he jumped at the chance to meet the pop-art icon.
Mark Sink: "Andy Warhol, Mountain Man," Colorado, 1982.
"I went on a mission to find Andy. I kept asking people, 'Have you seen Andy?' And they would say, 'Oh, I saw him here, I saw him there.' So I kept looking, opening and closing doors, and then I opened a door, and there was Andy sitting there signing posters by himself. He was super happy to see me, so I sat down with him. I got to tell him how much I loved Interview and how I was an aspiring photographer, and by the next month my name was on the masthead of Interview.
Mark Sink: "Portrait of Andy Warhol" (detail), 1982.
"He loved to have fresh, young, bushy-tailed kids at his side, and he said, 'Come with me. Let's go find the others,' so we walked onto campus. I was so naive, but when I saw the guys he was with, I realized, 'Oh, he's like a giant queen!' But we all hung out on the campus lawn, and we lit up some joints, and I took pictures. And then he said, 'You're welcome to come back to our funny little motel.' So I jumped in my Volkswagen and was racing to the motel, and I got pulled over by the police. But they let me go when I explained what was going on; they were really sweet about it. So I go there, and Andy asks me, 'Can I take pictures of your scrapes?' And I said, 'Of course.'" At which point Sink obediently dropped trou in front of the motel room while Warhol took this now-infamous shot of the fit and tan young bike racer's road rash and skivvies.
Andy Warhol: Mark Sink, September 1981, outside Andy Warhol's motel room, Fort Collins, CO.
Sink also stood in the legendary two-mile line to get Warhol's autograph, but it was worth the wait: "He signed every page of my portrait book. I brought anything I had that had to do with Andy, and he signed every single thing. He even drew me a penis with a money sign on it. Andy had a little bit of a crush on me."
And of his own photographs of Warhol, of which there are many, Sink says: "I never considered these fine art or celebrity art. I consider most of them lucky-to-be-there snapshots. I liked getting him smiling and out of his persona, instead of that empty gaze he did, just to show that he had a great sense of humor. He was actually really fun, especially after a couple vodka tonics. He was very knowledgeable in art history, and he collected Navajo rugs and and turquoise and silver. My mom grew up in Santa Fe, so when he'd go there on shopping trips, he'd say, 'Tell me about this, tell me about that.' The main thing is that he was just a sponge of art and history. He was always asking questions."
Mark Sink: "Crash (Don Helping Smiling Andy Up)," Colorado, 1982.