Laurie Simmons Honored With ICP Spotlights Award

Past honorees include Carrie Mae Weems, Lauren Greenfield, Mary Ellen Mark and more

Courtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21
The Love Doll/Day 30/Day 2 (Meeting), 2011 Pigment print, 70 x 52.5 inchesCourtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21

On Tuesday in New York City, multimedia artist Laurie Simmons was honored during the International Center of Photography's sixth annual Spotlights Award luncheon for her contributions to the visual storytelling world.

In a wide-ranging and casual conversation with Molly Ringwald, Simmons discussed her trajectory over the last four decades of making art.

Courtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21
Sink/Ivy Wallpaper, 1976 Gelatin silver print, 5 1⁄4 x 8 inchesCourtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21

Interestingly enough, when she was first starting out, Simmons says she didn’t really consider herself a photographer. It was only through her friendship with Jimmy DeSana that she began to explore the camera as a tool. Between working hands on with DeSana in the darkroom and calling up the Kodak hotline, Simmons was able to teach herself photography.

Courtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21
Big Camera/Little Camera, 1976 Gelatin silver print, 5 1⁄4 x 8 inchesCourtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21

“In art history many of the main actors were male,” Simmons told the crowd. “Photography, seemed like a thing I could mold into my own.”

Courtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21
Blonde/Red Dress/Kitchen, 1978 Cibachrome, 3 1⁄2 x 5 inchesCourtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21

Simmons says she was surprised the first time that someone identified her as a feminist artist—with her early work she said she was just trying to make pictures that were as beautiful as the images she had seen in Life Magazine as a child. She clarified that although the classification was an unexpected one, she never felt that "feminist" was a dirty word as some young women now seem to.

Courtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21
Tourism: Parthenon/ 1/1 First View Cibachrome, 40 x 60 inchesCourtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21

As the conversation continued Ringwald and Simmons discussed marriage, motherhood, the effects of all of that on an artistic life and the public’s perception of what it means to be a feminist artist. Simmons clicked through a slideshow of her work as the two chatted, occasionally making an aside as certain images appeared to comment what the public response to them had been.

Courtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21
Walking Camera I (Jimmy the Camera), 1978 Gelatin silver print, 84 x 48 inchesCourtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21

“I’ve shot so many pictures that no one has ever seen,” she explained while pausing on an image of an empty doll house, lacking the figures that many are accustom to seeing in her work. “I need to do it and I do it periodically—just making pictures of really empty spaces.”

Courtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21
Walking Cake I (Color), 1989 Cibachrome, 84 x 48 inchesCourtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21

A few slides later as the conversation was wrapping up a sexually explicit pulled from a free internet porn site that Simmons had repurposed appeared on the screen. The audience laughed a bit nervously at the young woman being projected above them. Simmons explained that this was from a series she had started, which people found quite upsetting.

“People thought that they knew who I was,” she explained, “but, they didn’t.”

Courtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21
Walking House (Color), 1989 Cibachrome, 84 x 48 inchesCourtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21
Courtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21
Color Pictures/William Baziotes, 2009 Pigment print, 36 x 48 inchesCourtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21
Courtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21
The Love Doll/Day 22 (20 Pounds of Jewelry), 2010 Pigment print, 70 x 52.5 inchesCourtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21
Courtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21
Brunette/Black Dress/Orange Room, 2014 Pigment print, 70 x 48 inchesCourtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21
Courtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21
Yellow Hair/Brunette/Mermaids, 2014 Pigment print, 70 x 48 inchesCourtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21
Courtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21
How We See/Ajak (Violet), 2015 Pigment print, 70 x 48 inchesCourtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21
Courtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21
How We See/Edie (Green), 2015 Pigment print, 70 x 48 inchesCourtesy of Laurie Simmons and Art21
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