‘Domestic Demise’: Patty Carroll on the Hilarity, Heartbreak, and Horror of the Female Experience
Stuffed into a stove, suffocated in thick, mauve velvet, collapsed over a strawberry Jell-O mold. The women in Patty Carroll’s staged photographs are stiff and mannered, posed in unnatural positions that would tempt any onlooker into a murder-mystery whodunnit worthy of Hercule Poirot.
“My photographs are metaphors for the interior lives of women,” writes Patty of her series Anonymous Women: Domestic Demise. “How we substitute everyday objects and artifice and turn them into obsessions.” Jam-packed with hyper-domestic objects—Campbell’s soup cans, retro television sets, Monopoly game pieces—Domestic Demise chronicles the horrific fate of housebound women: literally crushed to death under a heady mixture of societal expectations and condensed chicken noodle soup.
Using a mannequin for each unfortunate woman, Patty arranges her sets with cutting precision, as artificially orchestrated as a Saks window display in December. “I am addressing myths of perfection and illusion by photographically creating worlds that critique and satirize the expectation of domestic perfection; a claustrophobic experience,” says Patty. Blending elements from decorating magazines, traditional still-life paintings, and colorful films from the 1950s and ‘60s, Patty pays homage to women who oversee entire ecosystems—home, family, and career—without thanks.
Comically expired in increasingly creative ways, these women bend and contort to fit their manufactured sets with alarming ease. Girl Scout green fades into avocado-colored curtains. Aggressively patterned loungewear merges with aggressively patterned wallpaper. Pink heels and matching clamdiggers disappear into an oven. Strewn with pink-on-red color palettes, plush fabrics, and quirky lamp sets, Domestic Demise is pure ‘50s and ‘60s camp, design fetishism at the height of object obsession. Placing her photographs in America’s “affluent age,” Patty suggests the irons and ovens advertised as liberators of household drudgery merely made women more docile, more complicit in their own servitude.
“In [Domestic Demise], the figure symbolizes so many women, no matter what culture or background,” Patty says. “However, it has its roots in our traditions of consumer culture and the meaning of ‘things.’” Linking female psychic and spiritual death with the worst impulses of capitalism, Patty throws heavy fabric on the invisible outlines of a gilded cage. “My woman is both the creator and victim of her own possessions and obsessions,” she says. “Her home has become a site of tragedy and danger, with scenes of hilarious and heartbreaking mishaps and horror. While humor is prevalent in these narrative images, the message behind them has darker implications in the role of women in all societies.”
“My photographs are metaphors for the interior lives of women.” — Patty Carroll
All photos published with permission of the artist(s).
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