The night of Patty Carroll’s exhibition Demise, Camouflage and Calamity filled Studios Inc with a good number of guests given an appetizing introduction into the Anonymous Women series, and as Caroll pulled back the curtain we gazed into the mind of an artist encapsulating the domesticity of mainstream America. I can say with confidence that everyone left with something new, burning and clawing inside of them that night.
Patty Carroll’s exhibition features twenty individual pieces and four installations. The installations are three-dimensional extensions of the staged photographs, Domestic Bliss, Picnicked, Plastic Fantastic, and Sweepy. The installations vary in their size, layout, scope, and medium.
Domestic Bliss is staged with women at the center of a room covered in thick, colorful, and glossy antique drapes hung over the room mixed with lace covered in pink floral prints. A large antique lampshade sits on an ornate, marble end table, illuminating a woman covered in more drapes and slouched over in her chair. Drapes fall into heaps on the floor as they envelop the entire piece. Domestic Bliss creates an elaborate, graceful, and florid outward expression of womanly domestication. However, the women and the room are obstructed by the drapes. The opaque material’s heaviness reference the veiled reality of the domestic sphere. We can only see the illusions of grandeur and happiness displayed within the piece and, by extension, the home. But, not the constrictive reality of domestication and, by extension, “domestic bliss”.
Carroll’s works play on similar expectations, symbols, metaphors, allusions to literature, and folkways. These references pepper the pieces, describing womanhood affected by the patriarchy ingrained within western civilization.
Every time I enter this exhibition, I discover something new. Only recently did I make the connection between Yellow Wallpaper, an exhibited piece, and The Yellow Wallpaper written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Gilman’s acclaimed short story focuses on a husband who ignores his wife’s pleas for help as she slowly loses herself to mental instability and depression that manifests as acute psychosis. Similarities between Carroll’s series Anonymous Women and the short story abound, though these pieces were created nearly a century apart. Carroll’s work is almost the last scion of a past era, nearly eclipsed by the aging baby boomer generation. Carroll recreates the themes of the ’40s, ’50s, and 60’s to explore the cultural shift of the late 20th century. Its difficult for me to pin down exactly what Carroll is trying to say, but I always ask myself why?
Written by A.K. Turner