Julia Warhola was born in a region sometimes called terra nullius or "no-man's land." It is an in-between land known as the Subcarpathian Rus. Generally it is where eastern Slovakia, southern Poland and the western part of the Ukraine converge. It was, at the time of Julia Warhola's birth, a poor area. Escaping this part of the world, Julia and her husband settled in Pittsburgh. At the time, Pittsburgh was a center of coal mining in western Pennsylvania. Julia and her husband, Andrej, a heavy construction and assembly line worker who often traveled for work, had three boys: Paul, John and Andy.
Andy was Julia's youngest and frailest offspring. Andy [Warhol] was, by all accounts, Julia's favorite. She spent her children's childhood, usually speaking in her native Ruthenian dialect doing what a Depression-era housewife was expected to do: taking care of children, minding the household, preparing potatoes for piroghis and baking bread.
According to reports, she was herself creative, "a folk artist...creating and selling handicrafts, stenciling her family's furniture, and drawing pictures of religious scenes and animals for her sons." Her drawings of angels and cats have been included in exhibits of her famous son's works.
When Warhol moved to New York to work as a commercial artist his mother followed and in 1952 she moved in with him. Andy Warhol is famous for among other things, his creation of Campbell's soup cans which he first exhibited in the early 1960s. The origin of the idea for soup cans as art has been credited to several people. There is a story, mentioned in an interview that Warhol gave, that his mother would use soup and juice cans to make flowers to sell to help support her son's art education. A Warhola relative recalls that Andy was often sent to a market on Beelan Street, Lipschultz's, near the Warhola home, to buy cans of soup. It is likely, Julia made many bowls of soup for her children. On some level, the Campbell's soup can has some iconic energy associated with the artist's childhood.
In 1971, Julia Warhola, weakened from illness and subject to erratic behavior moved back to Pittsburgh where she died in 1972. Her youngest son did not attend her funeral. In 1974 Andy Warhol made his 40" x 40" synthetic polymer pain and silkscreen ink on canvas portrait of his mother. Julia Warhola's silkscreen portrait now resides in the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.