Neon Lights and Pawn Shops: The American Dream, as Collaged by Andrew Soria

In Andrew Soria’s vibrant art, photographs of urban America — all shot by the 31-year-old artist himself — confect into visually-intoxicating collages through Photoshop wizardry. New Jersey born and Miami-based, the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale alum is interested in portraying the “stories of a city.” Among the sprawling landscapes of freeways, motels and pawn shops depicted in Soria’s work, people are a rarity. Instead, endless skylines with punchy neon signs compose a narrative echoing pop culture and careful societal observation.

Exploring the harsh dichotomy of the wondrous illusions surrounding the American Dream and the gritty realities of our ever-consuming society, Soria’s art also closely examines the flaws in modern-day American culture. In turn, his art is both whimsical yet critical. As a huge fan of his art and social commentary, I am delighted to be saying this — meet Andrew:

What drew you to digital art?

Digital art wasn’t really a thing when I first started school. In fact, we were still doing things by hand. Initially, I went to AIFL to be a chef. Then I got persuaded to major in graphic design, via my childhood drawings my mom brought to my admissions interview, lol! In addition, I always had a deep passion for photography and decided to take a few elective photography classes. After learning graphic design, I was able to merge both skills to create what I know now. It took a long time to figure out what I was doing, I enjoyed graphic design, but didn’t see myself doing it as a full time gig. I always felt I could tell a more meaningful story with imagery. I made a few composites in 09’, but none of It clicked till I moved to Miami. The first gallery I was in was interested in seeing more of my composites… In particular, Miami cityscapes. So, I created “Wannabe Here” & “Pride & Joy”, in about a week for my first group exhibition. From there, the whole cityscape idea made sense.

Andrew Soria, “Fast Food Nation,” 2013.

How would you describe your aesthetic?

Vibrant, energetic, lively. The complexity of the cityscape is one aspect, color adds dimension to my work. I think my use of color creates that nostalgic feeling. I believe it allows the viewer to connect on a whole other level.

“Forgotten Vegas,” 2016.

What do you wonder about? How do you explore these things in your art?

Mainly, I wonder about cultural and political affairs. I try to explore these things ideas in my artwork, subtly. I’ll place many fine details in my composites. It’s important to see my work full scale to find all the hidden gems.

“Sobe Hotels,” 2016.

Can you tell me a bit about your process in creating such surreal landscapes?

I use original photographs of scenes throughout the city. Then I go to photoshop to create the composite. I clip out the background of each image, so I can use that image as a puzzle piece. Once I collect enough “puzzle pieces” I start to arrange them into one seamless new scene (photoshop file).  Once I get the groundwork laid out, I tend to add in more minute details. Finally, I do an overall photo edit to the landscape to create that surreal look. 

“Hell A,” 2016.

What are you trying to capture about our society/the United States in your work?

Mainly, the many stereotypes of American culture. We are a capitalist society of consumers, and there is no end to our consumption. When I traveled to Ecuador in 2015, I had a better grasp on how most people lived. We appear to be a spoiled and rich country in the eyes of foreigners. Traveling allows you to gain perspective, and compassion for people. That being said, you begin to realize the U.S. really does have it all.

“Wynwood,” 2016.

One of my favorite pieces of yours is the designer pills one. Can you tell me a bit about the inspiration for this piece?

I don’t recall exactly what struck me… Somedays, I wake up and an idea just hits me. “Designer Drugs” was one of those ideas. I thought it would be funny to poke fun at our obsession with material things… by relaying that message through the ultimate quick-fix method of popping pills. It seems everyone is in an endless cycle of overworking. Stressed, anxious? Pop a Xanax! Need to focus, pop an adderall! No one actually makes time to deal with their issues and get better. Instead, we work till we burnout, while staying distracted by hi-end consumer goods we can’t afford.

“Designer Drugs,” 2015.

How has living in Miami inspired or informed your work?

Miami’s culture is vibrant and energetic. Which provided me with my colorful palette. South Florida is a tropical paradise, with a laid back lifestyle. Which is amazing! …But when you’re trying to move forward, it can hinder your growth creatively and personally. Florida, most importantly, lends that nostalgic aspect to my work.

“Wynwood,” 2015.

Who are some of your favorite Instagram accounts or visual magazines?

Hi-Fructose, Juxtapoz, Plastik, Advanced Photoshop, Luerzer’s archive and Communication Arts

“Ecuadorean Refugees,” 2016.

Growing up, who were some of your favorite artists? If they have inspired your work, how so?

Salvador Dali, Alphonse Mucha, Drew Struzan, and Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss)… I’ve been obsessed with Seuss’s and Struzan’s illustrations ever since I was a child! There is something extremely nostalgic and classic about there works. Mucha, known for his ornate style, used color, pattern, and bold solid lines to create epic illustrations. Dali’s surreal fantasy lands are some of the most unique I’ve seen. All these artist have heavily inspired me by their use of color and pure imagination!

“Boca,” 2016.

What helps you feel creative? 

Music really helps me get in the flow of the creative process. I need something that I can zone out to… Usually, Chet Faker or Dave Brubeck radio on Pandora.

“Miami Pop,” 2015.

Going forward, what are some of your goals as an artist in 2017?

First and foremost, focusing on a new body of work called “Welcome to the Neighborhood”. I want to document popular LA neighborhoods by creating cityscapes for each one. Then, I need to somehow figure out how to convert a sprinter van to a living space, and travel the U.S. creating new cityscapes of the places I visit!

A portrait of the artist, 2016.
“Venice,” 2016.
“El Paso,” 2016.
“Wannabe Here,” 2016. For more of Andrew Soria’s work, visit his Instagram and website.

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