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Patty Carroll’s ‘Anonymous Women’ spotlights the binds of domesticity

by Abbey Schubert

Royal, 36x 48

Royal, 36x 48

Growing up in the Chicago suburbs during the 1950s and ’60s, photographer Patty Carroll lived in a homogeneous, harmonious bubble. By way of cookie-cutter houses, rigid gender norms, and midcentury notions of perfectionism and civility, Carroll came to know the suburbs as “fabricated places of solace,” as she writes in her artist’s statement for “Anonymous Women,” currently on display at Schneider Gallery. The exhibit is the culmination of a photo project that Carroll has been working on since the mid-90s.

Anonymous Women” distorts photographic portraiture in three distinct variations. In some photos, a woman’s torso is visible, but dishes, plants, or other household accessories hide her face. One series features women completely costumed in drapes and other pieces of home decor; they’re covered from head to toe, but the contours of their body stand out against the background. And in the third setup, the subject and the backdrop are covered by heavy curtains and fabrics—the format creates the impression that the women are built into the backdrops of their living spaces. By disguising the face and body of each woman and essentially deeming her a decorative prop, “Anonymous Women” addresses both female anonymity and many housewives’ obsession with their homes during the 60s.

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