You would think that a woman living with a mannequin family has got to be some sort of weirdo. Contrary to that expectation, 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.” 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. If you’re wondering about Suzanne’s real love-life, well, it’s pretty normal. “I’ve had boyfriends my whole life,” she said.
She just never felt that marriage was the way to go with any of them, not even her live-in boyfriend of the past seven years. Nonetheless, she’s planning to renew her vows with Chauncey in June. She is currently working with wedding planners to have a grand event with all the works – an officiated ceremony, live band, food and guests. Half the guest list is filled with mannequins of course, from the groom’s side of the family!
Photos: Suzanne Heintz/Life Once Removed