In 2006, the work of Portland-based photographer Holly Andres was everywhere: in group shows at Ogle and the now-defunct Alysia Duckler Gallery, at the Oregon Biennial, and, for one week, even on the cover of the Mercury. The broad appeal of her images was obvious. Though thoughtfully packed with intellectual allusion and narrative detail, they easily scanned as the stylized detritus of advertisement—thanks to hyper-coordinated color palettes, nostalgic interiors, and glaringly posed models.
With Sparrow Lane, her new solo exhibition at Quality Pictures, Andres picks up where her previous, partially autobiographical series, Stories from a Short Street, left off. Revolving around a family of children (their parents are conspicuously absent) as they prepare to move, Stories presented the passage to maturity as fraught with foisted responsibility and solitude. One sensed, looking at the considered character sketches in this series, that they were deeply rooted in Andres' own youth. Sparrow Lane, on the other hand, departs from such overt personal mythology for decidedly more conceptual territory. Here, no clearly discernible narrative relationship unites the images. Instead, the represented action—young girls, in pairs or threes, snooping and spying—functions symbolically, transforming the models' Nancy Drew-style exploration of a house and its grounds into potent metaphors for sexual awakening.
Whether tiptoeing down a basement staircase or exploring an attic crawl space, Sparrow Lane's heroines are frozen in private, tentative moments of rabid curiosity. And while the scenes themselves suggest some very literal epiphany to be found in these "secret" settings, it's clear their searching only leads to personal revelation. As such, talismans of self-discovery abound, including keys that "unlock" and mirrors that "reflect" the elusive knowledge of womanhood. With all these metaphors of exposure and revelation, you might expect the models of Sparrow Lane to occupy some oppressive darkness. But Andres' pictorial Bildungsroman are bathed in warm, golden light and populated by brash, saturated hues, from turquoise to magenta. It's enough to suggest that, for Andres, youth's not-knowing is hardly frustrating and awkward, but feverish and euphoric.