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b. 1959, Melbourne, AU
Lives and works in Los Angeles, CA, US

Polly Borland is widely known for her portraits of prominent cultural figures and conversely, underground communities. Borland’s decades-long photographic investigations of publicly and privately curated personas are built on the manipulation of body, power, sex and ego.  Portraying images of raw vulnerability, pathos and a penetrating desire for comfort and care, her Babies series explores the very real world of infantalists – adults roleplaying as infants. Dressed in diapers, often with a pacifier in their mouth, Borland’s disquieting photographs portray subjects acting out of a compensatory need to be nurtured. The subversion of the male gaze to surreal, punkish or ghoulish consequence has always been present in her photography.  With later series including Bunny and Morph, she disrupts traditionally alluring images and subjects, intensifies them, repositions them and essentially turns them on their head through specific staging. This is exemplified with Bunny where she inverted the soft, seductive pin-up type with an aggressive, confrontational and physically domineering model (Gwendoline Christie) in bizarre rabbit garb. Playboy bunnies are certainly a continuation of classic, historic depictions of the female nude, which tend to be demure, reclining in a docile manner with smooth, glowing skin and unblemished features. Borland’s images reveal wrinkles, varicose veins, layers of loose skin, body fat and other imperfections that do not exist for male consumption. They do not elicit sexual desire, but rather, reveal hidden truths.

Borland often cites Hans Bellmer, Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelley as her biggest influences - all whom play with a combination of the abject, disgust, dark humor and a strangely seductive, aesthetic violence of contemporary life. Recalling Bellmer's disturbing images of doll parts reassembled as the Surrealist 'Exquisite Corpse', Borland's bodies are often rearranged and disjointed. Borland points out the moments of metamorphosis in the images; her work at its best seems to reach inside human beings and turns them inside out, exposing viscera, quietly trespassing into inner worlds to access what usually remains hidden. In her latest unpublished series, Selfie, Polly has started to turn the camera on herself. She challenges ‘selfie’ tropes and social media culture through contorted, grotesque oversized nudes. The confrontational photographic images amplify her aging body with tightly cropped images that seem sculptural and surreal in their abstraction. The artist twists, kneads, flips and folds her body, handling her flesh like a malleable material while also steering her iPhone camera with a selfie stick. Like the work of these influential artists, from the Surrealists to her contemporaries, Borland’s enigmatic and absurd tableaux invite new considerations of underlying cultural contradictions.

Polly Borland (b. 1959, Melbourne, AU; lives and works in Los Angeles, CA, US) has exhibited worldwide, especially in Australia, the UK, Europe and across the United States, including the major exhibition Polyverse at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne in 2018.  Borland has shown internationally at institutions including National Portrait Gallery, London; University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane; National Portrait Gallery, Canberra; and Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane. Her work is in public and private collections including The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, National Portrait Gallery, London; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; and Damien Hirst’s Murderme Collection.

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