The Complexity of Domestic Interiors: Laurie Simmons's Depiction of Women's Identity in the Home

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Cesiro, Lauren Elise
The Graduate School, Stony Brook University: Stony Brook, NY.
Aesthetics, Betty Friedan, Feminism, Home, Laurie Simmons, Women
Laurie Simmons was among a group of artists in the 1980’s working in photography, film, video, and performance who recognized the influence of the mass media on the American public. Simmons used her art practice to comment on these images tailored to the consumer. Much of her photographic work of dolls and dollhouses challenges the viewer’s concept of the relationship between women and their domestic interiors. This thesis examines three photographs from the following series: Color Coordinated Interiors (1982-1983), The Instant Decorator (2001-2004), and The Long House (2002-2004). In these series, Simmons presents the home as a complex environment that both shapes and is shaped by one’s identity. In each of these exemplary photographs, Simmons’s women become literally and figuratively multifaceted in both public and private spaces in the home. Gradually, throughout these three series, she separates the women from their surrounding objects. These works show how she has explored issues of gender identity construction and in particular a feminine identity. Informed by writings by Betty Friedan, Hannah Arendt, and a range of iv feminist scholars whose perspectives I found helpful and resonated with my own, I will explore how Simmons uses interiors to construct and comment on feminine identity. Laurie Simmons’s photographic work of dolls and dollhouses challenges viewers to examine their domestic surroundings. Her work asks questions such as: What shapes a person’s identity? Is identity static or in flux? Is there such a thing as a universal woman’s identity? Much is written about feminism, the home, and art, but Simmons’s work has been underanalyzed in these areas. This thesis examines Simmons’s work in light of these concerns.