Some people take their pets across the world, send their kids’ toys into outer space or take a Lego toy man along. Not Suzanne Heitz, she took it one step further and took a bunch of plastic mannequins along on her travels!
Suzanne Heintz comes across as fairly normal. As normal as an artist can be, that is.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.”
So Suzanne embared on a massive journey with her mannequin family. She took them over 16,000 km across the USA and even to Paris, snapping shots of her and her “happy family”.
And taking all those pictures isn’t exactly an easy task. “If you think it’s hard travelling with your family, try travelling with a family of nude quadriplegics. It’s just short of torture. That’s okay, that’s what I signed up for. Part of the deal. Art shouldn’t be easy. It’s what separates my work from any other snapshot taken in front of the Eiffel Tower. Art is supposed to be hard. That’s what makes it worthy of your attention,” she said. She takes 300 to 500 shots per session, which can go on for hours
Suzanne said she receives mixed reactions from people about her work, especially when she tries to involve the public in her shoots. “I need the public for character and context, and I also invite people to ask questions about why I’m doing what I’m doing.” People are thrilled, shocked, or can’t stop laughing. Some of them are so taken aback that they just walk away from her.
This also happened to Jinna Yang who – after her father’s death – Traveled the World with a life-size Cardboard Cutout of Him to Show Him the Places He always wanted to visit.
“PLAYING HOUSE” – NEW TRAILER from Suzanne Heintz on Vimeo.
The ‘point’ that Suzanne is trying to make through her project is that 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 liberation was in the ‘70s. It’s the 21st century now and somehow, I’m still not right without a ring on my finger?”
“As women, we’ve never had more opportunity available. But look at all the mixed messages we get; we are constantly comparing the way our lives look to others. People expect me to be all wamp wamp, but you can be happy without all the stuff people think you need.”
Could this be just enough motivation for you to get away from society’s conformity rules, to just grab your bags and embark on that life changing trip you have always thought of?!
We think you should!