The Artist Laurie Simmons Photographed Her Daughters Grace and Lena Dunham in Body Paint Cosplay
For the better part of four decades, the artist Laurie Simmons brought life, a little disconcertingly, to artifice with her stagings of plastic dolls in real situations, lit and photographed as if they were live actors onstage. Now, at 68, Simmons is bringing a little artifice to life. In “2017: The Mess and Some New,” her second foray into portraiture featuring human subjects—after “How We See,” a 2015 series in which she photographed models with their eyes closed but vacant stares painted onto their eyelids—the artist photographed her friends and family (including her daughters Grace and Lena Dunham, and the artists Shirin Neshat and Hayden Dunham) with a brazen direct gaze that feels exciting for Simmons. But of course, there’s something askew about each picture currently on view at New York’s Salon 94 Bowery: Look closer, and you’ll see that the subjects’ costumes are painted onto their nude bodies. (Lena’s Audrey Hepburn look was chosen for Hepburn’s Lena-like susceptibility to health issues; Grace’s Rudolph Valentino has the masculine traits that Grace, who identifies as transgender, feels more comfortable being photographed in.) After all, it probably wouldn’t be a Laurie Simmons portrait if she didn’t mess with the very idea of portraiture in the first place.