She also has a live-in boyfriend…whose mental state I am now wondering about.
Suzanne is an art director at Starz Entertainment Group in Englewood, Colorado. Every day for the past 14 years, she has been coming home from work to her unique family – her synthetic husband Chauncey and never-growing adolescent daughter Mary Margaret. Over the years, she has traveled 16,000 kilometers across America and all over the world, taking happy portraits with her plastic loved ones as a part of an art project called ‘Life Once Removed’.
Before the mannequins became a part of her life, Suzanne said she was routinely badgered with questions like, “When are you getting married?”, specially by her mother. “Nobody’s perfect,” her mother said to her about 15 years ago, “If you are going to get married, you’ll just have to pick somebody.” To which Suzanne replied, “Mom, it’s not like I can go out and buy a family and make it happen.” Or could she?
Later that night, as she was walking past a retail liquidation outlet, a row of mannequins on sale caught her attention. That’s when she realized, “I can buy a family!” And so began her whirlwind romance with the handsome Chauncey. Instead of going through the real thing, she decided to just photograph herself with the mannequins to see what it looked like. “If I have to go through the motions, this is what it is going to look like,” she said. “They are mannequins. The candy coated shell with nothing inside. We do all those family things, all the while capturing those Kodak Moments.”
If you look through some of the family portraits that Suzanne has created, you’ll see that her face is always full of joy. She really does seem to be enjoying the adventure, no matter how crazy it may look to some people. It’s like her own act of rebellion, like she’s telling the world exactly what she thinks of its customs and constraints that expect a woman to be married in order to be happy. “If I pass through life without checking off the boxes for a wedding ring and a baby carriage, I will be missing the photo album, but not the point. When I take my photos, others stop and stare, then they ask, ‘why are you doing this?’ They, at that moment, are starting to get the point too.”
And the ‘point’ that Suzanne is trying to make through her project is actually pretty deep – she wants to remind people that there is more than one type of American dream. That nobody has to live a life as dictated by society or prejudices. “Yes, I’m a grown woman playing dress-up and house,” she said. “But it’s all for a darn good reason. And it’s not because I need medication. It’s because I have the right to decide how my life looks. And you know what, so do you! Women’s lib was in the ‘70s. It’s the 21st century now and somehow, I’m still not right without a ring on my finger?”