Patty Carroll Interviewed by Talking Pictures

Posted on Apr 26, 2022

Patty Carroll, Cooking the Goose, Catherine Couturier Gallery

Cooking the Goose, 2017


Patty Carroll: Death by Décor

by Alasdair Foster 
23 April 2022


Rosie was a riveter, emblematic of the women who stepped into the factories and shipyards of America when the men went off to fight the Second World War. For many it was an emancipating experience as they demonstrated that they were perfectly capable of tackling jobs traditionally consider men’s work. But when war ended and the men returned home, they wanted their jobs back. Thus began the mid-century social re-engineering of American womanhood.

In films and on television, in magazines and advertising, women were recast in hyper-feminine mould, and firmly placed back in the home. Bright colours and jazzy patterns were the order of the day, in female attire and interior décor, as the home became both an extension of her identity and its constraint. While the pre-war drudgery of housework was alleviated by a plethora of modern labour-saving gadgets, the rapidly expanding consumer society demanded a feverishly acquisitive materialism. To keep up, the amphetamines that had been doled out to soldiers to keep them alert and upbeat in time of war were repackaged in peacetime and marketed to housewives to ensure they stayed chipper and maintained their willowy silhouette. Meanwhile the trope of America’s ‘happy homemakers’ was embedded in the binary rhetoric of Cold War propaganda that cast Russian women as Communist factory slaves.

It is this frenetic consumerism and suffocating domesticity that the artist Patty Carroll evokes and satirises is her extended series of ‘Anonymous Women’. An artist long known for super-saturated colour images of Americana – from diners and hotdog stands to B-movie tales of mobsters and femmes fatale – her anonymous women retreat from the world to abandon themselves in obsessive pursuit of an ideal home. A home so ideal that they themselves become just another ornament.

Patty Carroll, World on her shoulders, Catherine Couturier Gallery

World on Her Shoulders, 2020

Your multi-part series ‘Anonymous Women’ opens with ‘Heads’. How did this initial suite of work begin?

My husband and I had moved to London for a few years, and I was having a very hard time adjusting to British society. As a photographer and educator I use my maiden name, but in England no one knew me professionally and I was addressed as Mrs. Jones. It made me acutely aware that in more traditional societies, most women are still seen through the lens of their domestic status. It was a situation that led to a small identity crisis. My response was to begin a series of photographs depicting a female model whose identity was hidden behind various domestic objects. These were ‘unportraits’ – about being unseen. This anonymous woman represented the situation in which very many women find themselves.


Patty Carroll, Stairfall, Catherine Couturier Gallery

Staired Down, 2020

In ‘Anonymous Women: Draped’ the woman herself disappears completely under heavy folds of drapery. What prompted that development?

After we returned to the USA, we bought a 1950s ranch house and I set about transforming it into the home that, as a child, I had always wanted but never had. I had intended it to be an idealised mythical place, but it became somewhat of a time capsule filled with vintage furniture, fabrics, lamps and other décor. Initially I used the drapes from that house for this new series, later borrowing fabrics from friends who owned a custom drapery and décor business.

To continue reading, please visit Talking Pictures.

To view more work by Patty Carroll, please visit her artist page.

Catherine Couturier Gallery will be featuring Patty Carroll in the upcoming AIPAD Fair. Please find us at Booth 212 at The Photography Show May 20-22, 2022, at Center415 on Fifth Avenue between 37th and 38th streets.

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