University of Southern Indiana

Filth and Foulness 2021 - Andrea Hoelscher

Little Women

  • Filth2021 Hoelscher Traveler06
  • Filth2021 Hoelscher Night07
  • Filth2021 Hoelscher Search09
  • Filth2021 Hoelscher Departure10
  • Filth2021 Hoelscher Sunrise11
  • Filth2021 Hoelscher Burdened08
  • Filth2021 Hoelscher Beholder12

Artist Statement: In the photographic series Little Women I staged scenes populated by tiny female figurines. These figures explore and travel through mysterious surroundings. Architects and city planners use figurines like these when envisioning new, idealized spaces. My arrangements are designed to provoke a different and less utopian range of associations. How did these women find themselves in the midst of all this filth and foulness?

The tiny women in these photographs are surrounded by the trappings of domestic life. The spaces they inhabit are not clean or pristine, in fact they are downright dirty. In “Departure” a middle-aged woman picks her way through a landscape of burnt toast, while in “Battle” a figure of a young woman prepares to defend herself against an encroaching beetle (in a dustpan). Their struggles are a reminder that it is a constant effort to keep dishes, floors, countertops and clothes at an acceptable level of cleanliness. Every household produces a never-ending cycle of filth and foulness and women are still statistically more likely to be responsible for the chores to hold this grime at bay. The scenes in Little Women draw the viewer into unsettling, uncanny worlds, while also provoking questions about “women’s work”.

When I began this series of photographs I had two small children at home, and often felt pulled between my roles as an artist, teacher, mother, and the less pleasant tasks of household maintenance. Noticing the slime growing in my dish drainer for several days straight, I allowed it to flourish for the sake of the image “Bather”. When I discovered mold-covered hot-dog buns forgotten on the counter, I brought them into service for the image “Search”, where two women wander across a green hillside. These photographs provided a creative outlet, and a break from the ever-repeating cycle of household work. Turning the unsightly, messy details of my house into scenes of quest and escape was an extremely satisfying way to re-interpret and confront this quotidian filth. The sight of these tiny women trying to cope in such an absurd, out-of-proportion world is often humorous, even ridiculous. While surrounded by the literal debris of domestic life, these figures actually seem to inhabit a vast, complex world that extends well beyond the edge of the picture frame.

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