Garbage Paintings by KellyAnne Hanrahan


About 20 years ago, I lost a silver charm necklace that I had since I was a child. When I was telling a friend how sad I was to lose it, he told me that just about everything I've ever lost or thrown away is still here - somewhere. That one remark, both comforting and horrifying, has stayed firmly in my head and still shapes the way I think about physical objects.

In the beginning of this series (Chapters 1 and 2), my idea was to depict 2 images of every year of human life: one image of the life, and one of the garbage left by the life. The life, depicted in oil paint; the garbage, a paper sketch affixed to the canvas with oil paint. Each sketch represents something I threw away, but is no doubt still here.

With this piece, the series took a turn (Chapter 3). After just a few years on the planet, the objects that come and go with the body are too numerous to individually portray. The objects became an abstract pile of colorful waste. And instead of focusing on an individual body and the garbage it creates, I began to focus on life events and the garbage, physical and otherwise, they create. My first trip out of the country, smoking my first cigarette, my 12 years of Catholic school.

I then widened my perspective even further, abandoning individual body and life. This painting marks the beginning of a focus on humanity and nature (Chapter 4). No longer battling the garbage I've left behind, I've moved on to contemplating the connection a modern human has with the environment in which it lives. An otherwise beautiful landscape ruined by a conspicuous piece of plastic left by a human... or an illustration of just how small and insignificant this modern human life is compared to the alive and growing mess of organic life?

The series branched out again in 2011 with this painting (Chapter 5). Now the scope of evolution is being explored and thrown into piles of old garbage. First, baboons - the old world monkey that reminds me of humans more than even the chimpanzee. And now, modern day chickens - plump and flightless birds domesticated by humans for food and fighting.

With Chapter 6, I'm imagining a world without humans - only their garbage left behind. I'm picturing the plants and animals on the earth repopulating around our garbage, starting with the first multi-cellular life forms on the planet that are still with us today.

The Garbage Paintings collection has now evolved: Oil Paintings Of Animals is the newest series.



more garbage | animals

older paintings


About KellyAnne Hanrahan

Born: Chicago, 1972. KellyAnne Hanrahan began thinking seriously about art at the age of 14 when she fortuitously got the chance to take painting lessons from Marie Burton, a student of Ivan Albright. She learned the fundamentals of oil painting - technique, mediums, color mixing - and focused on recreating masters and painting landscapes and portraits. By the time she was 16, she wanted to break with tradition and begin experimenting. She applied to the Early College Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and was accepted. When it was time to choose an art school, she went to SAIC.

While a student at SAIC, KellyAnne began in the painting department doing a series of circus freaks on unstretched canvas with black ink and watered down acrylics. She used this series to get accepted into a foreign exchange program and spent 1992 in Manchester, England exploring circus freakery on canvas at Manchester Metropolitan University.

After a year back in Chicago, she got interested in doing comic books and started her own series. Using this series, she again applied and got accepted to a foreign exchange program which allowed her to spend 1994 in Nottingham, England drawing comics.

In 1995, after graduating from SAIC with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting, she had her first painting show (with painter Thor Alward) in Wicker Park, Chicago at the Flat Iron building.

KellyAnne set up an illustration business in 1997 ( and in 1999 she moved her studio to New York City. In 2004, she had a large show at the Kimmel Center (Manhattan), along with painter Bill Reilly.

In 2013, the garbage series was shown for the first time at RePop in Brooklyn. This series of garbage paintings has inspired a new collection: Oil Paintings of Animals.