MIKOVA, Slovakia — A Slovak cousin of Andy Warhol, the Pop Art icon, knew his American relative was a painter of some sort.
He gathered that much from the letters his aunt, Warhol’s mother, sent to Mikova, the hamlet in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains where both the artist’s parents lived before emigrating to the United States.
“I thought he painted houses,” said Jan Zavacky, 73.
Nobody in Mikova has made that mistake for a long time.
Since Warhol’s death in 1987, the tiny village in Slovakia has — more or less — embraced its role as a place of pilgrimage for his fans. They come seeking to understand how Warhol’s family origins may have played in his rise into a global art star who grabbed so much more than just 15 minutes of fame.
On the road to Mikova, a sign with Warhol in his trademark wig of wild hair proudly announces the village as his family home.
After waves of emigration, few villagers remain — a cow herder, a few dozen pensioners and a cluster of Roma families. But all know the story of how the American-born son of Andrej Varchola and Julia Zavacky-Varchola made it big in New York, after changing his surname to Warhol
A bus stop outside the Andy Warhol museum in Medzilaborce, Slovakia. Credit Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times