Laurie Simmons - Photographs New York Wednesday, October 11, 2023 | Phillips

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  • During a visit to the residence of ventriloquist Doug Skinner, Simmons encountered a photograph of a snack box perched atop a pair of woman’s legs. This campy, feminized aesthetic reminded her of certain television commercials, advertising characters and assorted cultural ephemera she had seen during her childhood in the 1950s. Simmons contended, ‘legs were haunting me,’ and subsequently felt compelled to anthropomorphize inanimate objects by incorporating the presence of a human form. The resulting body of pictures formed her seminal project Walking and Lying Objects (1987-91).

    “I had seen when I was a child a TV show in the fifties where there were dancing cigarette boxes and dancing matchboxes and it always stayed with me as a kind of image of something that was physical, without a brain, without a heart, without a mind – but maybe something just about joyousness and gleefulness and fun. Those ideas spawned the image of the camera on legs and from there it just seemed like there were a number of creatures I could make.”
    —Laurie Simmons

    Out of necessity and budget limitations, Simmons employed dolls and mannequin legs for all the images in the series with the key exception of two, one of which is on offer here, Walking Purse. In the photograph, the artist’s sister Bonnie dons a life-size alligator skin purse and twinkling heeled shoes, which pop against the stark white of her stockings. Employing the visual language of mid-century advertising and animation, Simmons engages with ideas of displaced identity due to conspicuous consumption. The female subject has transformed into an object, illustrating Simmons's interest in ‘the confusion between ourselves and our possessions.’ Fittingly, although the aesthetic of the image is lighthearted and nostalgic upon first glance, the monochrome tones, directional theatrical lighting, and the hesitant slant of the model’s legs imbue the picture with a subtle sense of film-noir foreboding.


    Old Gold Cigarette Promotional Girls, 1956
    • Provenance

      Thomas Ammann Fine Arts, Zurich
      Phillips de Pury & Company, New York, Contemporary Art Part II, 17 November 2006, lot 388

    • Exhibited

      Louise Lawler, Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons, The Finnish National Gallery, Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki, 25 March - 9 May 1993

    • Literature

      Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Laurie Simmons: Big Camera, Little Camera, p. 159
      Nykytaiteen Museo, Louise Lawler, Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons: Katseen kääntäjät/Re-turning the gaze, p. 23
      Baltimore Museum of Art, Laurie Simmons: The Music of Regret, p. 102
      Aperture, Laurie Simmons: Walking, Talking, Lying, p. 86, pl. 51

    • Catalogue Essay

      A color variant is in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California.

    • Artist Biography

      Laurie Simmons

      American • 1949

      Laurie Simmons is an American photographer and filmmaker. Known for her curated domestic scenes using dolls and miniature objects, Simmons questions the truth behind photographic realism and the stereotypes of American culture. In her critically acclaimed series Walking Objects, Simmons offers commentary on how women are represented in popular media through a memorably surreal image. The artist emerged in the 1980s as a prominent member of the 'Pictures Generation' alongside Cindy Sherman and Louise Lawler. Today, Simmons' work is found in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others.

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Walking Purse

Gelatin silver print.
84 x 48 in. (213.4 x 121.9 cm)
Overall 89 x 53 1/2 in. (226.1 x 135.9 cm)

Signed in ink, printed title, date and number AP 2/2 on a label affixed to the reverse of the flush-mount. One from an edition of 5 plus 2 artist’s proofs.

Full Cataloguing

$50,000 - 70,000 

Sold for $76,200

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs


Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Chairwoman, Americas


New York Auction 11 October 2023