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In The Perfect Woman Susan O'Doherty explores her fascination with female identity. Pinioned on refashioned wooden boards, each figure is a proud display and a specimen, laid out for investigation. Put together from remnants of our manufactured world, these creatures are grotesque hybrids. Furniture parts, obsolete home appliances and decorations form their bodies, arranged with an eye to functionality. The handle of a grinder recalls an arm, window sashes are limbs; an elegant, hand-turned table leg becomes a torso. At the centre of many, unlocking their secrets, are old-fashioned keyholes, set in metal doorplates - a comic book eroticism.

The mounting boards are assembled from recycled wood, painted and patched to form internal landscapes. Treated with O'Doherty's characteristic high key palette, they blend with the patina of the untreated objects. Chalky, gentle hues give the works, you could almost say - beauty. Dolls' heads form focal points, holding the innocence of childish features, smooth cheeks, ruby lips. Dismembered doll limbs sometimes protrude from the figures, adding to the ironies. The faces are intact and they gaze forward, apparently unaware of the travesty below. At times, a head or collection of heads is all that remains to suggest gender.

Nonetheless, these are unmistakably female heads. In some, they smile brightly, gathered in bouquets and propped in vases, to grace the efforts of life's more active participants. These are the anxious watchers, the cheer squad that follows every move of the game without ever actually joining. They have sacrificed mobility and the integrity of their bodies but their faces resist the ravages of time and that, apparently, is enough. Enhanced, improved, reconstructed, The Perfect Woman holds up a distorting mirror to the social constructs that pretend to tell us what is feminine, what is attractive, what is possible.

Arts writer, Elizabeth Butel 2010


These works convey how plastic we've become as women and how eager we are to be presented as plastic. Our quest to be beautiful at any cost has overtaken our common sense, mental health and well being. We have convinced ourselves that to be physically perfect is happiness. Females
from 8 to 80 are becoming obsessed with plastic beauty reflective of our rediculous reality TV shows, fashion magazines and multi-media images of glamorous women.

We're too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, not blonde enough, not tanned enough....how eager we are to alter ourselves to attract men, and then be discarded anyway with age.  We strive to look like we've been produced out of a mold and then are not completely happy with the new us...... a viscious cycle..... the new us isn't us..... it's a print out version of supposedly how we want to be. Who are we doing this for? How do we ever explore our inner life and discover who we are if we are continually changing our outer appearance?

The Beautiful Blondes in a vase all want to look the same instead of being individual and appreciate the differences that make us all so unique. We have a monstrous desire to be cut up and shaped into unrealistic dream images of ourselves, amplifying an already fragile ego.

Susan O'Doherty 2010

Click here to see the full list of artworks in this exhibition
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