Patty Carroll’s Satirical ‘Anonymous Woman’ Is Overwhelmed by Her Own Domestic Perfectionism

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“Bamboozled.” All images © Patty Carroll, shared with permission

The irony of the mannequin as “everywoman” is that the inanimate form doesn’t have much in common with real women at all. But for photographer Patty Carroll, that’s the point. “The mannequin is the ‘ideal woman’ who does not age, have wrinkles, fat, or any other human quality,” the Chicago-based artist says.

In her ongoing Anonymous Woman series (previously), Carroll captures scenes of domestic dismay and disaster, like a woman hiding from a bug infestation in the bedroom or falling from her office chair, still gripping a phone. “(The mannequin) stands in for all of us who are obsessed with our homes, whether it is the décor or activities inside that make us ‘homemakers,’” the artist says. And the domestic scenes in which they sprawl are meticulously crafted with the help of her assistant Andie Meadows.

It takes a long time to conceive of the concept and gather materials to construct each image. Carroll has increasingly gravitated to using puns or idioms from which she composes literal images like “Underdog,” in which a woman is trapped under a dog seated on a chair cushion, or “Bamboozled,” wherein the figure disappears into bamboo-themed furnishings. Sometimes a specific prop, like a brown donut-shaped phone or the black panther sculptures popularized in the early 20th century, forms the basis for an elaborate scene.



Carroll’s images often reflect domestic trends of the Atomic Age and the subsequent decades when post-war American society experienced a renewed optimism, privileging traditional family values and the “nuclear family.” The era is also marked by an explosion of marketing trends selling the fantasy of the “happy housewife,” replete with her scratch-cooked meals and effortlessly efficient, clean, and inviting home.

In contrast, Carroll’s Anonymous Woman is often swallowed by her surroundings, simultaneously clumsy and completely overwhelmed. “I grew up in a place where one’s drapes matched the sofa or bedspreads, and life was supposed to be ideal with 2.5 perfect children, a beautiful mother, and a rich father,” Carroll says. “Of course, none of this was true, but it was the myth of the perfect life. I have continued to satirize this illusion with humor, color, and beauty in my pictures.”

“Panther” was recently purchased for the 21C Museum Hotels collection and inspired an artist-designed suite at the Kansas City hotel, which opens this year. And “Smokin’” will soon be on view at ALMA Art and Interiors in Chicago. See more on the artist’s website.



“Dishwasher Dull”


“Hawaiian Hangover”




“Sour Grapes”

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