When Mauve Does the Tango is an exploration of Staged Photography. Works by Andrea Gardner and other artists from The Arts House Trust Collection show the artist (or other people) as characters inserted into the compositions. They are usually in the form of disguise using clothing, wigs, masks, cardboard, and paper shapes.

Andrea Gardner’s photographs are taken and constructed in her studio with a variety of costumes and props. She positions and photographs herself in an array of poses. Gardner uses a range of colours (warm or cool hues), patterning and fabric throughout. The result is that each image has a specific quality, as a variation of an overall theme. They are created in the same sense as self-portraits, but Gardner’s face is usually hidden and her body parts are concealed, transformed, protected. This means that her female figures become more anonymous and universal. Gardner offers further context in the following statement: ‘In general my work explores concepts around identity, selfhood, and the psychological tension found in female experience’.

Gardner’s Colour series of 2016/2017 presented a notable new direction - bold coloured backgrounds feature as constructed studio-based photographs. She started to include herself in poses and costumes in later work, from 2018. More recently she has been adding in painted sections, drip and paint marks are evident. Her face and bare hands are revealed more often, still rarely. Overall, Gardner is interested in juxtaposing the familiar with the unexpected. She notes that ‘artifice mixed with reality can create “truthful fictions” and unexpected narratives, which might be playful, absurd, poetic, or enigmatic’. This can lead to an ambiguity in Gardner’s photographs, leaving room for various interpretations. These images become curiosities for the viewer, who may be left wondering - are they meant to evoke psychological, aesthetic, feminist, or environmental concerns? Or something else.


Andrea Gardner is a photographer and sculptor based in Whanganui. Originally from California, Aotearoa has been her home for almost three decades. Photography has been a focus of her practice for the past 15 years and she has used this medium to explore the intersection between the picturesque and environmental issues, romanticism, colour and form. She has completed residencies in Colombia, Spain, Mexico, Bolivia, and the USA. Gardner has exhibited nationally and internationally, and her work can be found in numerous national collections. She holds a BFA from the University of California at Santa Cruz and received an MFA in Painting from the University of Iowa.

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  • 72 Hillsborough Road
  • Hillsborough
  • Auckland, New Zealand