Ghost in the Machine

Portraits channel rock's finest using cassette tape


Erika Iris Simmons’ one-year foray into cassette-tape portraiture happened after noting how similar the coiled, stringy reels of old cassettes resembled Jimi Hendrix’ hair. Since then the 26-year old self-taught artist has added similar likenesses of Kurt Cobain, John Lennon, Patti Smith, Michael Jackson, and other legendary musicians and icons to her impressive body of work.


Simmons, who lives in Atlanta and works under the moniker iri5, produces most of her art works with discarded and recycled materials—many of which she receives via donation. Part-sculpture, part-portrait, she underscores each cassette-tape rendering with an astounding accuracy, compounded by the uniqueness and the difficulty required mastering such unconventional materials.

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Her “Ghost in the Machine” series, currently on view at Wisconsin’s Peninsula School of Art, is a somewhat philosophical manifesto to the notion that our spirits live on in our bodies long after we’re gone (much like the tape spun around the wheels of a cassette). It’s a fitting tribute to both the late icons she depicts, as well as her particular medium—a material on the verge of being obsolete.

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To see more from the Ghost in the Machine series, check out iri5’s flickr page.
For more info about donating to Simmons’ art projects, check out her wish list, which includes old lace, a butterfly net, graduation tassels, among other odds and ends.