Carly Jean Andrews’ collage self-portraits are like an archive of 80s magazine covers

The Los Angeles-based artist does self-portraiture on her own terms and in her own name.

30 April 2024

Everyday, there is another spin on the art of the self portrait. But the ones that are most transfixing, seem to have this quality where each portrait acts as a singular character in an overarching societal narrative or theme. Cindy Sherman’s work has that; each portrait an opportunity to traverse societal norms, stereotypes and periods by morphing in costume. Or what about Samuel Fosso? Exploring his own African identity by posing as Black international liberation icons including Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah and Angela Davis. For Carly Jean Andrews, the self-portrait isn’t solely about the photograph – they’re not necessarily stylised or costumed. Her’s feature lettering and illustration, with each feeling almost like its own magazine cover; playing on the image representations of women throughout the ages and fusing them into a collage that allows her to self define.

The photos throughout Carly’s work aren’t taken by herself, she often collaborates with friends such as Shevah Vahdatpour, Sela Shiloni and Jill Newman. The self-portrait element kicks in when it comes time to assemble and draw. “All of the elements in my collages are hand drawn besides the photos,” she tells us, “it’s all layers upon layers of textures and images I’ve drawn.” When looking through her work, you feel as though every piece is a reminder: Carly Jean is imprinted on the image and in our minds. But there is also this presence of character or caricature; a silhouetted outline of her head and shoulders, her name repeated in different stamp or like lettering from vintage packaging.

For Carly, there is inspiration to be found in “basically every book cover published from the 1960s-’80s”, as well as enigmatic and alluring songtresses during the period, including Donna Summer, Kate Bush and Cher. Mike Kelley’s Kandors, Cavewomen, 80s science equipment and gear, volcanos, tornados, Sorayama and Japanese airbrush art are also among her influences too. But with all of that the work is undeniably Carly. A retro fanatic dealing inextricably in the now, documenting herself and adding layers that accentuate her voice. “I’m building my own fantasy, it’s like natural disaster meets dark 80s.”


Carly Jean Andrews: Lettering roundup (Copyright © Carly Jean Andrews, 2024)


Carly Jean Andrews: 89 (Copyright © Carly Jean Andrews, 2023)


Carly Jean Andrews: Hook (Copyright © Carly Jean Andrews, 2024)


Carly Jean Andrews: Card (Copyright © Carly Jean Andrews, 2024)


Carly Jean Andrews: Lettering roundup (Copyright © Carly Jean Andrews, 2023)


Carly Jean Andrews: Survival (Copyright © Carly Jean Andrews, 2023)


Carly Jean Andrews: Survival 2 (Copyright © Carly Jean Andrews, 2023)

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Carly Jean Andrews: 35 (Copyright © Carly Jean Andrews, 2024)

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About the Author

Yaya Azariah Clarke

Yaya (they/them) joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in June 2023 and became a staff writer in November of the same year. With a particular interest in Black visual culture, they have previously written for publications such as WePresent, alongside work as a researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.

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