Purple Woman/Kitchen/Second View

Artist: Laurie Simmons (American, born 1949)

Date: 1978

Medium: Silver dye bleach print

Dimensions: Image: 7.6 x 12.7 cm (3 x 5 in.)

Classification: Photographs

Credit Line: Purchase, Pamela and Arthur Sanders Gift and Kenneth P. Siegel Gift, 2004

Accession Number: 2004.246

Rights and Reproduction: © Laurie Simmons


Shortly after graduating from art school in the early 1970s, Simmons was living on a commune in the Catskills and painting houses for extra money. It was in the attic of a toy store in Liberty, New York, in 1972 that she discovered a vintage dollhouse of the kind that she had played with while growing up in the Ozzie-and-Harriet world of the 1950s. During the heyday of the feminist movement, however, such toys for girls were viewed suspiciously as agents of persuasive indoctrination. Simmons nevertheless also understood their complex allure. Located at the intersection between personal and collective memory, these dollhouses represented for an entire generation a set of untenable illusions that, while fading, nonetheless stubbornly clung to the unconscious.

This is one of the artist's first images using her miniature dream home as a subject, and was produced using a do-it-yourself, mail-order "Cibachrome Discovery Kit" that yielded fittingly small prints. Their blatant artifice and brash coloring represented a significant shift in photographic practice away from the reigning standards of traditional art photography and the documentary style. They also commented ironically on the earnest, craft-oriented creations of her elders-so-called Pattern and Decoration artists such as Faith Ringgold and Judy Chicago.