After Laurie Simmons made The Love Doll Days/Days 1-36, a series focused on lifelike Japanese dolls photographed in a variety of domestic settings, she realized that she had plenty more to explore. “I discovered a whole sub-sub-sub-genre of cosplay [costume play] called Kigurumi that draws people who want to walk around and act like dolls,” says Simmons, whose latest show, “Kigurumi, Dollers, and How We See” opens Friday at Salon 94 in New York.
Once she found her subject, Simmons trawled the web for Kigurumi mask makers before alighting on a cosplayer in Russia who made complicated masks that take months to complete. Soon, she had created a group of characters based on his masks, having custom ordered them to her specifications about eye, lip and hair color. Shooting for the first time away from her home and studio in Connecticut, in a nearby abandoned house about to be torn down, Simmons dressed her models in ‘zentai,’ spandex bodysuits that Dollers wear as a kind of second skin to cover up their bodies, including the face, hands and feet.
“What’s new for me is going to a different place and creating a whole world there,” she told me as she was completing the series. “We get there, everyone dresses up and it’s a really odd experience because I feel like I’m really getting to know the Kigurumi people. When the players put the mask and costume on, it’s like having a different person around—other personalities emerge. I give some direction, but I prefer to see what emerges rather than to start bossing everybody around right away.”
Having worked with dolls and inanimate objects for so long, Simmons has been fascinated by what the “mask and costume activates in the wearer,” she said. “I never developed an attachment towards the love doll. I just needed to move that doll around my house and set up these scenarios. But I can feel this attachment I’m developing towards these characters that feels really different.
It’s like this sort of nether world between human and inanimate. It’s pretty alluring.”
“Kigurumi, Dollers, and How We See” will be on view at Salon 94 Bowery from March 6 through April 27 **