Alana O’Herlihy, Fashion's Favorite New Self-Portraitist, Is Obviously a Witch

The 23-year-old artist conceptualizes five alter egos in a new series exclusively for GARAGE.

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Feb 12 2019, 3:33pm

“I can say with 100 percent certainty that I was born this curious,” says 23-year-old artist Alana O’Herlihy, reviewing her latest self-portraits. “Things have changed and I’ve grown and that’s life, but I’ve always just been like this.” For O’Herlihy, who is a shape-shifter by trade, “this” is very many things. My Boyfriend Doesn’t Believe I’m a Witch, the title of the series presented here, consists of five alter-egos, each like an imaginary friend, born from perceptions of people she knows, and past, present, and future iterations of herself.

ZELDA was born in Salem, Massachusetts, into witchcraft. She is determined to find a man to love her, though it has been a journey. She concocts potions and spells in her tiny apartment in New York, where she now resides. She picks up men and seduces them; if they do not fit her liking, she poisons them and lays them down in a ditch. Zelda spends her time on Bumble and at The Cock on 2nd Avenue with her best friends. Zelda wears her own jumpsuit.
ZELDA was born in Salem, Massachusetts, into witchcraft. She is determined to find a man to love her, though it has been a journey. She concocts potions and spells in her tiny apartment in New York, where she now resides. She picks up men and seduces them; if they do not fit her liking, she poisons them and lays them down in a ditch. Zelda spends her time on Bumble and at The Cock on 2nd Avenue with her best friends. Zelda wears her own jumpsuit.

Before any of them, though, there was Jack Nicholson. O’Herlihy’s first self-portrait materialized from her obsession with the actor. After moving from Malibu, California, to New York City to attend Parsons School of Design, O’Herlihy decided to photograph herself when she couldn’t find a model to sit for an assignment—it felt more comfortable to adopt a persona than to pose as herself, and Nicholson became her source material. “I’ve always been consumed with Jack—since I was a kid, when I first saw The Shining,” she says. “What I’m most drawn to is that in all the films, there’s still a bit of him in each character that you can’t ignore.” The same can be said for O’Herlihy, whose work is at once possessed of that same wild abandon, but anchored by an acute self-awareness. Think of her as Cindy Sherman for the era of Snapchat.

MS. FARRAH believes in shopping. She is a consumer queen who spends her time at Barneys, So-Hair Salon, and at confession. Ms. Farrah wears jacket by EMPORIO ARMANI.
MS. FARRAH believes in shopping. She is a consumer queen who spends her time at Barneys, So-Hair Salon, and at confession. Ms. Farrah wears jacket by EMPORIO ARMANI.

A Google Images search of O’Herlihy will yield pictures of her multimedia work and portraits she’s taken of her hometown friends Gigi and Bella Hadid, but it will also produce images of the artist flashing and flipping off paparazzi, working slinky outfits at swanky events. It would be easy but lazy to label her practice an exercise in provocation, because that flirtation between sensuality and perversion is true to O’Herlihy’s spirit. “Those moments of sexiness and wildness—it’s a conscious decision to communicate those in the work. I’m all about exuberance and freedom.”

DOTTIE DANTE is born from the inferno. She embraces her body, and she embodies toxic spirituality, which involves an extreme alienation of her emotions. She pays a high price for this avoidance. Dottie has an unfortunate substance-abuse problem and likes to spend her Friday nights at The Pyramid Club in New York. Dottie wears top and overlay by PACO RABANNE.
DOTTIE DANTE is born from the inferno. She embraces her body, and she embodies toxic spirituality, which involves an extreme alienation of her emotions. She pays a high price for this avoidance. Dottie has an unfortunate substance-abuse problem and likes to spend her Friday nights at The Pyramid Club in New York. Dottie wears top and overlay by PACO RABANNE.

Social media has proven to be a powerful platform for O’Herlihy, who has amassed a six-figure following of loyal fans, but the Internet is a double-edged sword for the young artist. “There is a resistance to art that’s primed by this digital age. Especially since what I do has been done before,” she explains, perhaps referencing Sherman. “But, I like to think that I’m doing things differently. It is a different time and I’m trying to embrace that rather than fight it. There are definitely people who think that my work should only be experienced through a screen or in the context of the fashion world. I’m going to prove them wrong.”

ALLURA is Dottie Dante’s twin sister. Allura finds that the blessed people are also weird and poets, mystics, painters, and troubadours. Allura knows that these people teach us how to see the world through different eyes. Allura is completely and totally herself. She spends her time at the Bowery Ballroom with her friend Mei and at the hair salon Mudhoney. Allura wears bikini by MICHAEL KORS and her own robe.
ALLURA is Dottie Dante’s twin sister. Allura finds that the blessed people are also weird and poets, mystics, painters, and troubadours. Allura knows that these people teach us how to see the world through different eyes. Allura is completely and totally herself. She spends her time at the Bowery Ballroom with her friend Mei and at the hair salon Mudhoney. Allura wears bikini by MICHAEL KORS and her own robe.
ALLURA is Dottie Dante’s twin sister. Allura finds that the blessed people are also weird and poets, mystics, painters, and troubadours. Allura knows that these people teach us how to see the world through different eyes. Allura is completely and totally herself. She spends her time at the Bowery Ballroom with her friend Mei and at the hair salon Mudhoney. Allura wears bikini by MICHAEL KORS and her own robe.

Credits: Fashion Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, Hair Evanie Frausto, Makeup Erin Parsons, Talent Alana O’Herlihy, Manicurist Mei Kawajiri, Photographer’s assistants Sophia Torres-Ulrich and Tiare O’Herlihy, Director of Photography Tanner Abel.

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