In How We See, Laurie Simmons draws on the “Doll Girls” subculture of people who alter themselves with makeup, dress, and even cosmetic surgery to look like Barbie, baby dolls, and anime characters. Evoking the tradition of the high-school portrait — when teenagers present their idealized selves to the camera — Simmons photographed fashion models seated in front of a curtain, cropped from the shoulders down.
Despite the banal pose, each portrait is activated by kaleidoscopic lighting and small, surprising details that produce a nearly psychedelic effect. The models have preternaturally large, sparkling eyes that are painted on their closed lids, a well-known Doll Girls technique, and stare out at the visitor with an uncanny, alien gaze.
How We See draws an arc between portraits traded among classmates to the persona play that Doll Girls rapidly execute on smartphones, where the continuous feeds of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter allow alternate versions of the self to appear, morph, and disappear.
Laurie Simmons: How We See is organized by Assistant Curator Kelly Taxter.