Laurie Simmons Takes a Break from Tiny Furniture, Dresses Japanese Sex Doll Instead

Laurie Simmons posing tiny furniture

The contemporary artist Laurie Simmons often uses miniatures in her work — figurines, puppets, and elaborate doll houses all frequently appear in her photographs.

Disproportionately, her works also feature figures of women: dolls and vintage advertising paper-doll cutouts populate living rooms, galleries, swimming pools and secretarial pool offices, quite often in settings that are considered women’s spaces. The dolls inhabit roles like “fetish” or exhibit a certain kind of glamour; idols in comfortably appointed settings. And Simmons uses them to explore the work, the pleasures, and the limitations that society often places on women.

Interiors are intricately composed; Simmons has used dioramas by obscure early 20th century Latvian artist Ardis Vinklers, and has even designed a semi-mass produced dollhouse of modernist fabulousness, and used that dollhouse for a series of work.

Seems like it should be a Siouxsie and the Banshees song.

Kaleidoscope House

But for the first time, the subject of Simmons’s most recent body of work is life-sized: a sex doll purchased for thousands of dollars in Japan, dressed and posed around Simmons’s country house in Connecticut.

Image courtesy of Laurie Simmons and Baldwin Gallery

"Day 20 Bride."

There was an HBO “Real Sex” episode about the phenomenon about 10 years ago, which I cannot seem to locate online, but there is a relevant BBC documentary about them.

And a movie, which I have not seen.

The dolls are infinitely customizable — hair, facial features, and skin color (though there is generally but a single body type offered, the contemporary ur-build, the Barbie of Willendorf). Additionally, their vaginas are removable, for cleaning or some sort of a la carte option.

An enormous part of the mise-en-scène is the clothing Simmons chooses. Dressed like a suburban teenager in one memorable image, she seems to be playing outside on a spring day, jumping over a  stone wall.

Image courtesy of Laurie Simmons and Baldwin Gallery

When the work is shown, viewers frequently can’t tell if the doll is real or not. And the appearance of Simmons’s similarly made-up and totally real assistant alongside in some of the images, only heightens the ambiguity: a Photoshopped expectation of a bridge between real and unreal.

The Love Doll, courtesy of Laurie Simmons

 Her blandly compliant expression is somehow lent the the art historical street cred of the archaic smile of the kouros boy or Mona Lisa.

No longer a boy, not yet a man.

How you doin'?
No longer a boy, not yet a man.

Her clothes and her settings seem to give her an inner life. She suddenly has a backstory and placement in the world of the living.

Inamge Courtesy of Laurie Simmons and Baldwin Gallery

"Day 6 winter."

Dressed this way, she has the illusion of agency. Consent might even be withheld.

About Kiki Jai Raj

I'm an art dealer ski-bum who likes to lovingly stroke the stylistic venn diagram of ladylike and post apocalyptic. I spend disproportionate amounts on borderline-unnecessary tools and gear, and still mourn Helmut Lang's retirement.

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