Patty Carroll has been known for her use of highly intense, saturated color photographs since the 1970’s. Her recent project, “Anonymous Women,” consists of a 4-part series of studio installations made for the camera, addressing women and their complicated relationships with domesticity. By camouflaging the figure in drapery and/or domestic objects, Carroll creates a dark and humorous game of hide-and-seek between her viewers and the Anonymous Woman. The photographs are exhibited in large scale were published as a monograph in 2017 by Daylight Books, and a monograph of the later work as Anonymous Women: Domestic Demise by Aint-Bad Books in 2020. This series has been exhibited internationally, has won multiple awards, and acknowledged as one of Photolucida’s “Top 50” in 2104 and in 2017. Carroll’s work has been featured in prestigious blogs and international magazines such as the Huffington Post, the BJP in Britain, and NYT LensBlog, as well as exhibited internationally. After teaching photography for many years, Carroll has enthusiastically returned to the studio delighting viewers with her playful critique of home and excess. Her work is represented by Catherine Couturier Gallery, Houston, TX, Sherry Leedy Gallery, Kansas City, MO, Photo-Eye, Santa Fe, NM, and Weston Gallery, Carmel, CA
What were your early experiences as an artist like? How early did you begin creating?
I always wanted to be an artist, but I don’t think I was very sure of myself or what it was that gave me that urge. I remember my mother painting in the basement when I was young and I thought that was great, but we did not really visit art museums or have art as part of our lives except for her small attempts, which she gave up early. In late middle school, I talked my mother into letting me take lessons from Mrs. Baroni, who had a studio attached to her house where she taught small classes. We painted mostly roses. I joined the arts club in high school and took art classes that were slightly more interesting because the nun who taught it had a contract to provide yards of tie-dyed silk to a local department store. Of course, it was another limited experience, since every project was dictated by Catholic philosophy (similar to the sewing class I took where we could only make dresses with sleeves!) Nevertheless, it offered me a chance to make stuff. It was not until college that I considered art in a more serious way. In other words, it was a slow process.
I think that when the world around you does not offer options of influence or input, finding a way to take a different path than the one typically expected is a very slow moving train with lots of stops. I do remember having big arguments with my parents about my choice of major and college preference. Their plan was for me to major in journalism or English and take over our family newspapers. My plan was to major in painting at an art school. The compromise was Graphic Design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I don’t think I understood what I wanted to do until graduate school at the Institute of Design at IIT.
Who or what in your life influences your work the most?
Everyday life experiences. I don’t think one can create from just theory, exterior influences, or assignments. It comes from one’s own life, no matter what it is. Of course, there are many things that I like and look for inspiration, but it really comes down to what I am personally doing, feeling, and thinking about.
When I was younger and excited to make photographs, I was also trying to explore the world and get away from home. It led to long series of pictures I made at night and on the road. Part of it is every photographer’s desire to see what the world offers, but mostly I wanted to escape my life, home, and parental influences. Now that I am older and have lived in other countries and have had a variety of complicated, sometimes unfortunate experiences, I became very interested in the issues and idea of home; what it means, why we love/hate it, and how we experience home. So it seems I am making a full circle, but not landing anywhere I thought!
What is the one thing you hope your viewers walk away with after seeing your work?
I hope that viewers will relate to the situations that I create in my made-up world of home. I also hope that they will get the humor (often dark humor) and that we can laugh and cry at our experiences. I do not like to make work that is only theory/idea based, but rather can be enjoyed visually and viscerally. Because the work is about a lone woman in her home, everyone has some relationship to one of her situations, especially in our current pandemic lockdown.