In 1972 Simmons came across a dollhouse of the kind that she had played with while growing up in the Ozzie-and-Harriet world of the 1950s. The early 1970s were the heyday of the feminist movement, however, and such toys for girls were viewed suspiciously as agents of persuasive indoctrination. Simmons nevertheless also understood their more 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. The artist's first images of her miniature dream home were 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. Like Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Stills of the same moment, these deceptively simple works not only revealed how gender identity is constructed through the codes and signs of representation but also paved the way for the fervent experimentalism that would characterize photography in the following decades.
Inscription: Metro Pictures gallery label affixed to frame verso
the artist; [Skarstedt Fine Art, New York]
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Modern Photographs from the Collection IX," July 20, 2004–January 16, 2005.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Pictures Generation, 1974-1984," April 21, 2009–August 2, 2009.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photographs. "Grand Illusions: Staged Photography from the Collection," August 10, 2015–November 15, 2015.