In her fourth decade as one of America’s most innovative and influential photographers, Laurie Simmons says her current New York show “Kigurumi, Dollers and How We see” examines work that is “finally comfortable in a human scale environment.” Known for her early iconic work photographing miniature inanimate objects, Laurie’s staged domestic scenes, often imbued with a spooky innocence, explores the fictional nature of photography.
A day before her Salon 94 opening, Laurie graciously spoke with me, as the installation was just being finished. A longtime downtown resident, she is married to artist Carroll Dunham, and the mother of two daughters, Lena and Grace. Lena’s early movie “Tiny Furniture” featured Laurie playing the character’s mother and catapulted Lena to stardom with the highly acclaimed television series “Girls.” In May, Laurie’s work will be shown at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, where she is shortlisted for the Prix Pictet, a global photography award. Laurie Simmons: KIGURUMI AND DOLLERS 21 May – 29 Jun 2014, will be shown at the Wilkinson Gallery in Vyner Street.
IS: Kigurumi, a sub genre of contemporary Japanese “costume play” features players dressed in elaborate doll like costumes. Dollars often dress as opposite sex, or portray cartoon or toy characters. The pigment prints, using models dressed and masked in anime fashion are theatrical, poignant and beautiful.
LS: I accidentally found this place between human and doll. I feel like I stumbled upon that with these characters. That’s a place I’ve been looking for consciously and unconsciously for a very long time.” Laurie shot the pictures in a small abandoned Connecticut house.
IS: I asked Laurie about her identity as a member of the influential Picture Generation, a movement associated with Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, Robert Longo and other of her contemporaries who worked with image appropriation.
LS: “I feel like everything began there. I value that period of time but I am not mired in it. You’re never aware of being part of a group when you are living in the moment.”
LS: “With feminist art you think of the generation before me. I did try to define myself against them. I certainly owe that generation a lot for opening certain doors. I don’t want to be marginalized. I wanted to be part of a multisexual art world.”
IS: Your career has been such a successful trajectory,,,
LS: I wouldn’t say that, my career has definitely had peaks and valleys, highs and lows. I managed to keep making things that stayed in people‘s consciousness. If I wasn’t having a show, I would do things like create that dollhouse that sold at the Museum of Modern Art, or make the movie. I do different kinds of projects to keep myself interested in myself. And so that I keep a public awareness of what I do.
LS: I do want to make another movie. The last movie “The Music of Regret” (2006) was a musical in three acts, with Meryl Streep and the brilliant music by Michael Rohatyn. I want to make a narrative feature about a woman artist of a certain age. I’m excited. The script is pretty much done and I’ve actually shot 27 minutes of it. I want to get it done this summer, so I can get it out of my brain, so I can move on. These things can be really insidious, they burrow into you.
IS: I asked about creative dialogues between Laurie and Carrol Dunham.
LS: There actually is. It’s not always conscious. But I always tease him that he steals ideas from me, number one. And number two, he moved towards figuration because he wanted me to be more interested in his work.
LS: We did do a lecture together a couple of years ago in Colorado, where we put up examples of our work from different periods. When we focused on comparing a group of works, we could not believe how much influence we seemed to have on each other. The lecture was really fun and I don’t think we’ll ever do it again.”
IS: I have very few friends with intact families….
LS: We joke that we have become part of an alternative lifestyle. We actually just talked about that recently. The longer we’re together the less we can figure out how this happened. So we just think it’s just dumb luck. And a little bit of work.”
IS: You’ve raised two great kids…
LS: There’s something about two artists who then decide to raise children. It’s so much like a partnership, like going into some kind of business together. Because really, the goal of the artist is to get into the studio and make your work. You’re not really going to feel good unless you get to make you work. So we understood that about each other. And as for the rest… I am just as curious as you are.”
Interview: Ilka Scobie Photographs: by Luigi Cazzaniga
LAURIE SIMMONS AT SALON 94 New York City Until 28th April
LAURIE SIMMONS Wilkinson Gallery 50-58 Vyner Street London From Tuesday 20th May
LAURIE SIMMONS Prix Pictet, a global photography award V&A Museum London 22 May 2014 – 14 Jun 2014