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Affordable Art Fair
Interviews - 23 April 2019

See.Me winner Patty Carroll

This spring, Affordable Art Fair NYC partnered with See.Me, an international community of creatives. At the center of the partnership stood See.Me’s #WhatIfWeSharedHerStory online competition, which attracted over 50 submissions by artists from their community. See.Me is an online community designed to celebrate contemporary creators and their stories, having hosted dozens of exhibitions and New York and beyond, they connect their community to emerging and established artists, helping to boost their exposure.

The #WhatIfWeSharedHerStory competition was judged by an external jury which included our very own Fair Director, Vanessa Seis, with the top 10 artists featured in an exhibition located in the entrance of the New York Spring fair. We were delighted when Chicago-based photographer Patty Carroll was announced as the overall winner.

“It was fascinating to see how the participating artists each interpreted the #WhatIfWeSharedHerStory concept. Throughout the review process, I found myself often moved and deeply impressed by the skill and commitment to the practice. Grading each artist’s work was a difficult decision but Patty Carroll stood out to me as a committed mid-career artist who is not only a talented photographer but also masters the narrative.” – Vanessa Seis, Fair Director

Patty explores the themes of domestic life and material consumption through her dynamic and highly saturated color photographs. Her recent project, Anonymous Women, focuses on the unstable and complicated relationship between women and domesticity – which led to Carroll’s series of satirical and slightly disturbing compositions.

We met with Patty to hear more about her work:


Patty Carrolls winning photograph in the See.Me competitionHow does it feel to have been chosen as the winner of the See.Me competition and have the opportunity to show your work at the Affordable Art Fair this spring?


It is very nice! It is always really good to get confirmation that what you are doing as an artist has meaning for others. In this case, I hope other women are inspired by the images and to pursue their own causes.


Could you tell us a bit about your practice and interest in photography as a medium?


I became very interested in photography when I was studying Graphic Design as an undergraduate student at the University of Illinois many years ago. After a year of graduate studies in Design, I switched to photography and have never looked back. I have always been interested in photography as a form of self-expression rather than a commercial enterprise. I had very good teachers, and one was Garry Winogrand, who taught us about street photography; lessons I can still use in the studio. It is all about what makes a good photograph and thinking fast on your feet. 

My particular interest in photography has always been the fine line that photography can ride between reality and one’s own reality. I used to photograph real places and people that seemed like stage sets or actors, but now I have given in, and only create fictional scenes to photograph that refer to reality.


Where did the inspiration for the Anonymous Women series originate?


Inspiration comes from many sources, but mostly my own experiences as a woman. It began when we lived in London, where I began to re-examine my identity, which I took for granted while living in the USA where I was known as a professional teacher and photographer. However, this project goes back to my roots, growing up outside of Chicago. 
I am basically a suburban white woman. I was brought up in a mythically perfect suburban life that afforded good education, bland food, and a modestly abundant life of toys, friends, and community. I, like many women of this background and living standard, have been invisible. The work I do is both a celebration and critique of this overlooked, disparaged position. Many women find themselves in the position of silently and powerfully running a home and family, creating beauty and order from chaos, but unnoticed by the outer world, the people around them, or even themselves. Yet, often obsessing and perfecting the home and its accoutrements often shape the identity of many of us (not only women.) Perfecting a space with objects or décor becomes so central that one’s identity becomes fused with it to the point of invisibility.


Patty Carroll's winning photograph at Affordable Art Fair NYC spring 2019 edition


Could you talk us through how you produce one of your works?


My works are produced mostly the same, depending on the image and how it starts. If it starts with an idea about an activity, like cooking, then we build a set that has the essential parts and add a few quirky touches to it. Sometimes it comes from a room in the home. I was interested in the game of Clue, and how each room could hold a murder, yet wanted to treat it lightly. So I went through the list; the library, the kitchen, the bedroom, the conservatory, the drawing room etc. 
Sometimes, the work begins with something visual. For instance, the story behind the Striped Books picture is pretty simple. Most of the time I start with an idea about some obsession or cause of my woman’s demise, but sometimes I start with a visual cue, as I did this time. I was at my favorite fabric store in Miami and found all these wonderful striped fabrics that I could not resist. So I bought a bunch and we started to fill up my little theater with it, covering every surface. I also found the skirt she is wearing at a thrift store that matched the fabric, so we dressed her and put her on the couch, but what was she doing and why? Finally, we realized that the sides of books would match the stripes so I went and got various colored paper to cover the books and just kept going. We covered the lamp in the same fabric as the walls etc. I made the cover of the book she is reading into a simple home, because she is always redecorating her home and stuff!

When we set up the picture, it generally changes quite a bit from the beginning to the end. We start by assembling items that might go into the picture, usually based on a color scheme. (This often includes a lot of shopping and thrifting!) Then we cover the background and continue adding items and the mannequin. When it looks like we start to have something, we take a picture and look at it on the computer screen. Then we make changes, large and small, whether it is adding more stuff, or changing the lighting and repeat the process until it feels right. There is no right or wrong, but it does have to do with composition and how clear the meaning is in the picture.


What advice would you give to any aspiring artists reading this interview?


Follow your instincts, learn your craft, be disciplined in your practice and don't give up.


For more information on Patty Carroll and See.Me follow the link below.



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