Single Woman Photographer Opposes Societal Marital Pressure with Mannequin Family
- “My name is Suzanne Heintz and I’m a photographer … and a spinster.” —Suzanne Heintz
Denver-based photographer and art director Suzanne Heintz was fed up with people asking her when she was going to get married.
From her mother’s direct plea, “Just pick somebody!” to others’ woeful sighs of pity, Heintz lived half her life wondering where she had gone wrong.
After years of struggling to politely answer the question, she decided to procure the house, husband, and offspring everyone so desperately felt was the pathway to happiness.
Purchasing a pair of second-hand mannequins, Heintz set about playing house to achieve the American Dream.
From a Parisian holiday to Christmas cards of wildly escalating happiness, Life Once Removed is a sharp, witty critique on the archaic expectations of domestic bliss and fulfillment.
Describe the ‘perfect life’ that is expected of every woman.
“This is a weird time in women’s history. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased as punch that I was born when I was. I’ve got more choices and opportunities than any generation of women before me, but our roles have never been more complicated by deeply ingrained mixed messages from both previous and present generations.
“The term ‘perfect’ is no longer used to describe what we’re all striving to be. Now it is called ‘fulfilled.’ But for women, the path to fulfillment is not through one thing, it’s all things—education, career, home, family, accomplishment, enlightenment. If any one of those things is left out, it’s often perceived that there’s something wrong with your life. We are somehow never enough just as we are. We are constantly set up by our expectations to feel as though we are missing something.
“In my case, it seems I was missing the family component, and was suspect for that gap in my resumé as a successful woman. I thought it was high time to call this nonsense out publicly, because this notion is not just about me, nor only about women in regards to marriage. It’s about anyone whose life doesn’t look the way it ‘should.’
“I’m simply trying to get people to open up their minds and quit clinging to antiquated notions of what a successful life looks like. I want people to lighten up on each other and themselves, and embrace their lives for who it has made them, with or without the Mrs., PhD. or Esq. attached.”
… You have taken grand measures to actually enact these family rituals of home, holidays, and vacation. Why was the physicality of the work significant?
“This is why I’ve never used a model for the wife and mother role. It is a self portrait. I personally had to act it out to make the point. I had to physically demonstrate ‘going through the motions.’ If I had married because it was ‘time,’ I’d be living by rote, not choice. That’s exactly what I’m criticizing—acting out a life based on outdated expectations. I construct these artificial scenes of real life to ask, ‘What’s more important? That I’m happy, or that the open position of husband and father is filled in my life?’
“Now in regards to the physical difficulty of transporting and shooting uncooperative fiberglass quadriplegics—why would I put myself through this? It’s because the struggle is what tells you that the message is important. We are all overwhelmed by a flood of insignificant messaging. A message of any significance requires a great effort to be heard.
This monumental effort I’ve made is absurd, but it reflects my point. Going through life by rote or spending it feeling as though you did it wrong, are lacking, or not living up to expectations—that’s what is truly an absurd waste of time.”
- Posted by Pinar on February 12, 2014 at 10:00am
Life Once Removed is a whimsical yet thought-provoking portrait series by photographer and self-described spinster Suzanne Heintz that explores the societal expectancy of women to get married and start a family. The photographer places herself in front of the camera with a set of mannequins, posing as though they’re a nuclear, all-American family from a postcard or perhaps a 1950s sitcom.
Heintz originally embarked on this project because, she says, “I got really sick and tired of answering the question, ‘Why aren’t you married?’ over and over again. Like my life was behind schedule or there was something seriously wrong with me. Like I wasn’t living up to expectations.” Therefore, she intended to create her own husband and child. Throughout the series, Heintz wears her toothy smile as she goes sightseeing with her plastic family.
Ultimately, the series presents the unmarried creative with her faux family in manufactured poses, questioning the purpose of these indoctrinated rules and whether there’s truly a difference in her “family” pictures from others. She says, “We love & obey the formatted image of a well-lived life. So deeply ingrained is that strange auto-grin we put on when a camera is present. Do we live our lives with a keen awareness of how it feels, or just how it looks?”
In an interview with Feature Shoot, she also adds, “We are constantly set up by our expectations to feel as though we are missing something. In my case, it seems I was missing the family component, and was suspect for that gap in my resumé as a successful woman. I thought it was high time to call this nonsense out publicly, because this notion is not just about me, nor only about women in regards to marriage.
It’s about anyone whose life doesn’t look the way it ‘should.’ I’m simply trying to get people to open up their minds and quit clinging to antiquated notions of what a successful life looks like. I want people to lighten up on each other and themselves, and embrace their lives for who it has made them, with or without the Mrs., PhD. or Esq. attached.”
Photo from Life Once Removed by S. Heintz:
- July 2014
Photographer Suzanes Heintz is a self-proclaimed spinster. As a single woman, she got fed up with the bombardment of questions about when she was going to get married.
Tired of being pittied, she decided to confront this issue head on.
She purchased two mannequins – one male and one female child – and the series Life Once Removed was born. Dressing up and posing with her fake family, she stages witty representations of the American Dream.
Ski trips, vacations, and stereotypical romantic moments are all acted out by Heintz, and she sets the scene perfectly. These colorful images feel saturated, in both how they look and the emotional exuberance of the her expression and body language.
Heintz rejects the notion that to be a successful woman means that you have to fulfill a laundry list of achievements, not limited to an education, career, home, family, accomplishment, and enlightenment. In an interview with Feature Shoot, she explains why she created Life Once Removed:
- I’m simply trying to get people to open up their minds and quit clinging to antiquated notions of what a successful life looks like. I want people to lighten up on each other and themselves, and embrace their lives for who it has made them, with or without the Mrs., PhD. or Esq. attached.
- “I’m so tickled pink to be able to explain what I’m doing and the point behind it,” says Heintz, whose mannequin portraits, a long-term project she calls Life Once Removed, have been exhibited primarily through the U.S. Postal Service. And while they’ve been received with mixed emotion since gracing the Internet, behind all the hype is a message that resonates with almost everyone — not just the “old” and single. (Heintz says she’s old, but we disagree.)
“Life develops the way it develops, and you need to love it for what it is,” says the artist.
Her mother has been bugging her about marriage for the better part of two decades now. But whether it’s marriage or babies or more babies or more money or a better job or a better house, there is always something else we all could be doing.
And that’s the beautifully simple point behind Life Once Removed: “We are enough,” says Heintz.
She calls the mannequins “a Eureka moment.” About fifteen years ago, Heintz and her mom were going at it. “Nobody’s perfect,” Heintz’s mother told her. “If you are going to get married, you’ll just have to pick somebody.”
To that, Heintz responded: “Mom, it’s not like I can go out and buy a family and make it happen.”
Or could she? Later that fateful night, Heintz flew back to Denver and found herself walking past a retail liquidation outlet. That’s when she saw a row of mannequins for sale and realized, “I can buy a family!”
- This is just the perfect series of photographs to share on Valentine’s day. Suzanne Heintz’s series, “Life Once Removed,” was born of frustration; a frustration with the perception that as a single adult woman her time was continually running out and that she was somehow abnormal or missing out by not having a ring on her finger.
As Heintz writes in her Artist’s Statement, her natural response to her mother’s suggestion that she “just PICK somebody” was, “It’s not like I can go out and BUY a family! I can’t just MAKE it happen!” Yet, in a way, that’s exactly what she did.
Heintz began the project by using her own home as a backdrop, taking classic family portraits. Evolving over the following decade, the project expanded beyond home life to include Holiday Greetings: “as a satirical response to annual family photo cards.” Heintz says “the project took a turn after taking [the mannequins] on a road trip,” as this required her to work in public. The strangeness of a lone woman manipulating a family of mannequins and collections of props immediately disarmed those who passed by. Heintz sees this response as productive. “As soon as that happens, their mind is open and impressionable. Using humor, paired with shock, allows my message to penetrate, and the work can have greater impact. The aim is to get people to reconsider their stubborn allegiance to traditional life expectations.”
Heintz mentioned to me that her documentary about the project, entitled “Playing House”. Part One of the documentary will be released in March 2014. You can watch the trailer (Link): here.
Her Artist’s Statement discusses the expectations placed on the Modern Woman (whether by society, family and friends or, even, herself), Heintz points to “deeply ingrained mixed messages, from both previous and present generations”.
When it comes to life, particularly women’s lives, “fulfilled” is the new “perfect”; “the path to fulfillment is not through one thing, it’s through all things; Education, Career, Home, Family, Accomplishment, Enlightenment.” The trouble with this is that “if any one of these things is left out, it’s often perceived that there’s something wrong with your life.”
Heintz says that her intention in creating “Life Once Removed” was to “get people to open up their minds, and quit clinging to outdated assumptions of what a successful life looks like. I want people to lighten up on each other, and themselves, and embrace their lives for who it’s made them, with or without the Mrs., PhD. Or Esq. attached to your name.”
- Denver-based photographer and self-described ‘spinster’ Suzanne Heintz has a subversive photo series titled ‘Life Once Removed’ where she poses with a family of mannequins in a satirization of the American Dream.
Frustrated with constantly being asked when she was going to get married and being made to feel inadequate by her lack of a husband, Heintz took to photographing the unusual family portraits to critique society’s antiquated views of marriage and domestic bliss.
- After being constantly asked by her friends and family “When are you going to meet someone?” “Why aren’t you married yet?” and “Are you dating?” photographer Suzanne Heintz decided enough was enough and created her own family.
The comical artist purchased an adult and teenage doll to represent her imaginary husband and young daughter, then set about recreating all those predictable family photographs every relative gets sent. You know the ones, the Christmas photo, the holiday shot, the garden party and even those hum-drum shots of domestic life family members bizarrely feel compelled to share on Facebook.
Related posts this blog:
(Link): False Christian Teaching: “Only A Few Are Called to Singleness and Celibacy” or (also false): God’s gifting of singleness is rare – More Accurate: God calls only a few to marriage and God gifts only the rare with the gift of Marriage
(Link): Preacher Mark Driscoll Basically Says No, Single Christian Males Cannot or Should Not Serve as Preachers / in Leadership Positions – Attempts to Justify Unbiblical, Anti Singleness Christian Bias