Lena Dunham: Child of Artists

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Lena Dunham, the star and creator of Girls, is currently promoting her new book, Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s Learned, where she divulges everything from sex stories to body and food issues and more. Perhaps being the child of two artists, including an artist father who specializes in sexually explicit creations, has contributed to the star’s ability to share herself and her stories so openly with millions of viewers of her show and now readers of her book.

Dunham’s mother is photographer Laurie Simmons, known primarily for shooting doll houses as well as ventriloquist dummies. Her work has appeared in numerous notable museums, including the Guggenheim in New York, and earlier this year, she was a nominee for the Prix Pictet photography award for her work with a Japanese sex doll. Simmons’ youngest daughter and Lena’s sister, Grace spotted a poster for the life-size sex doll while on a trip to Japan. Mother and daughter then took a trip to the showroom and selected a “love doll,” as they are called. Simmons photographed the doll everyday for a period of time in various poses and staged situations. While Simmons did not win the Prix Pictet photography award, she was on the shortlist and is moving forward with her next projects, including directing a feature film about a female artist growing older, which includes a small part for Lena, as well as her next photography project that involves not dolls, but humans wearing doll masks and doll-like ensembles. As for Simmons’ take on what her children think of what she does, she has noted that they do not find it strange and that children, she believes, become used to what their parents do for a living.

Dunham’s father is artist Carroll Dunham, known for renderings of naked women that have been described by some as “disgusting” and “offensive” and by others as “irreverent” and even “playful.” Carroll Dunham’s work has appeared in a number of galleries, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Growing up the child of artists, Lena Dunham herself wanted to be one but later decided it was not the best way to use her talents. She has said that living in an age with so many forms of communication that can reach millions, she felt drawn to other forms of art, including writing, acting, producing, and directing. Dunham also does not feel that her parents’ well-known standing in the art world in New York had anything to do with her success, stating that she does not believe studios or networks would give a person a television show simply based on who their parents are. Others have also pointed out that Dunham’s parents were just not famous enough for her to have benefitted in television and film.

One thing Lena Dunham is certain about, being the child of artists aided her in other ways. She has described her childhood and her parents’ child-rearing as providing a certain amount of freedom and space to allow her to become the artist she is, as well as creative in terms of finding alternative solutions to problems, such as not waiting for a muse to become inspired to create. It seems Lena Dunham is not waiting for much these days, with her new book and the new season of Girls in January 2015, Lena is as prolific as her artistic parents.

By Jennifer Fernicola Ronay