Five Minutes with Artist Laurie Simmons

The artist talks her upcoming fashion collaboration with London designer Peter Jensen, who dubbed her his muse for his spring 2010 collection.

Laurie Simmons

Last week, artist Laurie Simmons emailed us about an upcoming fashion collaboration with London designer Peter Jensen, who dubbed her his muse for his spring 2010 collection. Having already seen her work with Thakoon, we were beyond excited. And when, on the last day of the New York collections, she invited us to her Tribeca studio to get the exclusive first look, let’s just say the moment overshadowed all the runway shows we’d seen in the past week. Jensen produced miniature versions of his spring lineup (adorable!) and created his own paper dolls, all of which Laurie shot in her signature dollhouse style. The hauntingly evocative photo series, which is also being turned into a book, was unveiled today at Jensen’s presentation during London’s fashion week. Here, our chat with Simmons.

Tell us about the paper dolls. Peter shot the model cut-outs in London but you chose the poses?

I sent him poses from my sixties and seventies fashion magazines. I wanted him to follow the poses and put the models in underwear, kind of like photographs I’ve already done. Then he found a doll maker to make [the spring collection] in miniature for me to shoot.

What about the hair?

I didn’t want every hairdo to be the same, so I started cutting hairdos out of magazines. I used a Bergdorf catalog, a J. Crew catalog and a Playboy from the seventies that had Nancy Sinatra on the cover.

Did you see the references to your own work?

Subliminally, I started to get the message that there was something going on. Peter didn’t tell me. A friend of mine noticed that the swans [on one dress] were from my photographs. Peter also suggested using a real bottle of nail polish in one scene and I had used a real, full-scale lipstick [in “Pushing Lipstick (Red Lipstick Vertical), 1979”], so I think he took that from what I’d done.

What do you think of Peter’s collection itself?

I really loved it—it’s kind of what I wore when I was younger. I love the stuff with checks and my daughter loves the swan dress.

Aside from your collaboration with Thakoon Panichgul last September, have you been a muse to any other designers?

That’s a tricky question. I’ve seen my work used. I think that the commercial world swallows up artists and ideas really quickly. It’s just part of the way things work. I used to get upset but now I laugh when I open something and either I’ve been the influence or one of my friends have.

If someone approached you to make these into real dolls for sale, would you?

I have to say, as I get older, instead of shutting down, as I suspected I would, I keep opening up. I would be open to anything. I mean, after all, I made a dollhouse [with Bozart Toys]. I never thought I would do that.

Portrait: Kathryn Allen Hurni

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