Holly Andres Explores Mortality, Sex, and Violence from the Backseat

by Maddie Maschger

If Holly Andres isn’t on your radar, you’re missing out. Andres is a Portland-based photographer whose work feels akin to the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and Cindy Sherman, but all the more fresh and exciting. Her photographs often explore the tension between an apparently approachable subject matter and a darker, sometimes disturbing subtext.

“I’m interested in the cognitive dissonance that can result from employing formal elements such as bright colors, decorative patterns, theatrical lighting, and characters or objects that reflect stereotypes of innocence, girlish femininity, and motherhood to address unsettling themes,” Andres says. A girl after my own heart!

One series that is particularly intriguing to me (and any other art history buffs out there) is Backseat Vanitas.  The series is comprised of gorgeously saturated photographs referencing the seventeenth-century genre of Dutch still-life painting. This genre was used to illustrate the futility of earthly deeds and pleasures using everyday objects as metaphors for mortality, sex, and violence. You know, the usual.

Andres takes the still life one step further and pushes it into the contemporary realm, using the backseat of various cars as her scene and employing lingerie, nail polish, dollar bills, birthday cake, and spilled milk as her own modern metaphors, a language we can all understand and relate to. Even without the use of human characters, Andres’ series retains the rich narrative quality that is so important to her work. She presents her unconventional still lifes in uninhabited backseats of a cars, which lures us into the scene, and we become the protagonist of this fictional story.

“To be completely candid, I seem to enjoy some sort of voyeuristic pleasure by noticing the interiors of parked cars, as though they’re symbolic still lifes which paint a portrait of the unknown driver,” Andres muses, “They’re alluring, but as an uninvited guest peering into someone’s private space, there’s the potential risk of getting caught.”

You can check out more of Andres’ work on her site, hollyandres.com, and her instagram @hollyandres, where she has actually posted a mobile series of cars in her neighborhood specifically dedicated to this fascination. 

Images courtesy of hollyandres.com.

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