MoMA
The Junior Associates Visit with Artist Laurie Simmons

Laurie Simmons. How We See/Look 1/ Daria. 2014. Pigmented inkjet print, 78 x 48 “. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the generosity of The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art, 2014. © 2015 Laurie Simmons

Laurie Simmons. How We See/Look 1/ Daria. 2014. Pigmented inkjet print, 78 x 48″. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the generosity of The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art, 2014. © 2015 Laurie Simmons

Last year, The Junior Associates supported the Department of Photography’s acquisition of a recent work by the artist Laurie Simmons. This work, How We See/Look 1/Daria (2014), is part of Simmons’s How We See series, inspired by the practice in which individuals dress up as dolls or anime characters and paint eyes on their closed eyelids. How We See, recently on display at The Jewish Museum, is one of many Japanese subculture-influenced series in Simmons’s oeuvre. A recent group of the photographer’s works explores kigurumi, the Japanese subgenre of cosplay where individuals wear doll-like costumes (including masks and bodysuits) and adopt personality traits of the dolls, cartoon characters, and stuffed animals that motivate them. The Junior Associates took a visit to Simmons’s studio in October to learn more about her How We See series and her upcoming projects.

For the How We See works, Simmons and her studio manager, Mary Simpson, worked with a number of models who were fascinated with the project’s concept. Each model, chosen for her ethereal beauty, had to sit for hours while a make-up artist painted on her eyelids. While photographing the models, Simmons would instruct them to make microturns of their heads and faces and minute changes in where their gaze was directed (with their eyes closed) so that she could take the most dynamic and engaging shot. Many of the most compelling images selected during the editing process, Simmons noted, were those where the model appears to be looking directly at the viewer with the piercing faux eyes. Talk about a trompe l’œil!

Laurie Simmons with members of the Junior Associates. Photo: Jessica Womack

Laurie Simmons with members of the Junior Associates. Photo: Jessica Womack

Laurie Simmons’s work hanging in her studio. Photo: Gretchen Scott

Laurie Simmons’s work hanging in her studio. Photo: Gretchen Scott

Simmons’s interest in dolls has grown and evolved over her 40-year career. “I was always interested in fantasy and child’s play,” she reminisced. “I started out photographing dolls and doll figures.” Her earliest photographs from the 1970s include female dolls situated in dollhouses—specifically kitchens and bathrooms—to visualize and critique the stereotypical role of women as doting and domestic housewives.

Simmons’s slide negatives. Photo: Gretchen Scott

Simmons’s slide negatives. Photo: Gretchen Scott

During our visit, Simmons also spoke at length about her relationship with photographer Jimmy DeSana. After meeting in the early 1970s, DeSana and Simmons struck up a friendship and working relationship, and eventually became roommates. She inherited DeSana’s uncatalogued estate after his death in 1990, and it was then that she realized just how important it is for an artist to keep impeccable records. Simmons and her team keep slide negatives of all of her works in meticulously organized archives.

Simmons and members of The Junior Associates. Photo: Gretchen Scott

Simmons and members of The Junior Associates. Photo: Gretchen Scott

In addition to being a photographer and working as an archivist of DeSana’s work during her long career, Simmons is also a filmmaker. “I just finished shooting a feature film. It’s called My Art. It’s about a woman artist around my age who is looking for a breakthrough in her work. She goes to a small town and meets people who help her with her work, which is recreating old movie scenes. I had two challenges: I don’t think people are interested in seeing movies about artists, and I don’t think they are interested in seeing movies about women my age. So, of course,” she said with a grin, “that’s the movie I made.”

To learn more about the Junior Associates, e-mail [email protected] See more pics from JA events on Instagram by searching #MoMAJA.