Suzanne Heintz is a photographer and self proclaimed spinster. But one day when her mother asked “Why aren’t you still married”, it rubbed her the wrong way. She first tried to explain to her mother that she couldn’t just go to the store and buy a family. But on second thought, she decided to do just that. She bought two mannequins from the window of the liquidation outlet center: a blue eyed man named Chauncey and a red headed girl named Mary Margaret. They were both from the same manufacturer, so they looked related.
It might have been a joke in the beginning – Heintz photographed herself with the mannequins and sent out “family” Christmas cards to her friends. But then she realized it was a perfect chance to work on a long-term project commenting on the expectation that a woman of “certain age” has to be married and have kids for people think she is “okay”.
Heintz’s photographs of “blissful domestic life” and “idyllic vacations” with her two plastic family members became an Internet hit.
She’s now been capturing her fictional life for 16 years, but some are still wondering whether or not the woman is a freak. They are convinced that she indeed lives with the mannequins and sleeps in bed with her plastic husband.
She does not fight this image.
One time, Heintz was harassed by the police in Paris, but everyone just started cracking up when she said: “My mom was after me to get married and this is what happens when you pressure your kid”.
By the way, her mom is now her biggest fan. So it all worked out in the end.
Below are some comments of the artist along with the works she shared with us:
“When my mom said: ‘Suzanne nobody is perfect, just pick somebody and get it done’, I flew of a handle: it’s not like I can go out and buy a family and make it happen.”
“Yes, I am a grown woman playing dress up and house but this is for a good reason.”
“Of course there were numerous occasions when I wanted to dump this project. And in fact one day in Paris I did exactly that. I shared the photos of an abandoned mannequin on the streets of Paris with an Eiffel tower in the background and then just threw him in the garbage. But when I got home the photos went viral.”
“If you think it is hard to travel with your family, try traveling with a family of mute quadriplegics, it was just short of torture. But that’s what I signed up for.”
“There is a lot of pre-planning. Each photo is like a small scale film production. It takes hours to produce one image.”
“What kept me going are the humor and the ridiculousness. Seeing what crazy shit I can get away with and how it gets people off guard.”
“I am not anti marriage or anti family, I just think you need to do it in the right time for the right reasons and not because you are running out of time.”
“I didn’t understand why a woman had to fulfill some sort of script in order for everyone in her life to think that she was okay.”
Suzanne Heintz is a performance artist, photographer, writer and satirist. For more information about Suzanne’s work, visit www.suzanneheintz.com
For information about the documentary that is coming out about her work visit: imitatinglifefilm.com