Laurie Simmons

Biography of Laurie Simmons

The hugely popular New York based artist, filmmaker, and photographer, Laurie Simmons, has championed feminist issues throughout her career. Through her distinctive and instantly memorable artworks she highlights the subservient role played by women in society. Often using the iconography of the post-war American culture she grew up in, her sophisticated play on gender roles exposes society’s narrow-minded attitudes and its apparent indifference.


Born in Long Island, U.S. in 1949, Laurie Simmons started taking photographs at the age of six when her father bought her a camera. She graduated from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia in 1971, before moving to New York a couple of years later. Much of her early photographic work brings to mind the middle-class American interiors commonly found in housekeeping magazines advertisements from the 1950s.


The artwork of Laurie Simmons forces the viewer to explore how they perceive gender, by replacing the woman’s presence in domestic scenes with artificial toy figures. She often photographs dolls but manipulates the lighting to such an extent that it brings the dolls dramatically to life. Her immense skill as a photographer enables her to achieve an astonishing degree of psychological expression on these inanimate subjects.


In 2006 Laurie Simmons collaborated with Meryl Streep to make the film Music of Regret, in which the famous actor was chased by dummy suitors. One of her most lauded projects was 2009’s The Love Doll, that featured a life-sized silicone sex doll from Japan. She then photographed the doll in a series of familiar “action” scenes at home.


Laurie Simmons is married to the New York painter Carroll Dunham and is the mother of the famous actor and writer Lena Dunham. In 2011 she had a guest appearance in the successful America TV show, Gossip Girl. She is permanently linked to the Pictures Generation group of artists, that includes Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger.


Laurie Simmons has had numerous solo exhibitions including at MoMA PS1 in New York, and has had retrospectives at the Neues Museum in Nuremburg, Germany and the Gothenburg Museum of Art in Sweden. She has exhibited her work at the Bienal de São Paulo, in Brazil. Her artwork can be found in the permanent collections of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum of Art and MoMA both in New York.

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