Daniella Dooling’s work exposes the underbelly of beauty, the morphology of sickness and glamour and the severity of control required to harness individual expression and desire into the strictures of convention. As Dooling has commented, “History is littered with the bodies of women who assumed contrary and subversive physical forms and personas as a mode of resistance. My works seeks to examine and at times celebrate that resistance through the exploration of contemporary social constructions, mass marketed ideologies of beauty, mental stability and inscriptions of normalcy. Through performance and obsessive-compulsive sculptural processes my physical body and/or my physical labor pursue a metaphorical relationship to disruptive notions of identity and beauty.” In Camisole (1998), Dooling links herself to a trajectory of artists who turned to stereotypically feminine tasks, such as sewing and weaving, to invest them with new values. But this is sewing with a vengeance. The camisole is actually a straight jacket which Dooling has covered with 10,000 acrylic fingernails. Camisole reads on many levels. In the context of the current exhibition, the conjunction of straight jacket and false nails can be interpreted as symbolic of the binding restrictions that conformity to the beauty myth imposes on women, locking them rigidly within the bounds of convention. But the very title of the piece, Camisole, while not invalidating that meaning, deepens the resonance of the piece from a simplistic one liner. The linguistic disjunction of title and object opens up a history of the diagnosis and treatment of female hysterical. It is a history grounded in the need to restrain female sexuality and aspirations, to sedate and transpose into a state of permanent invalidism rather than convert that restlessness and yearning into a confrontation that demands more than convention is willing to permit.
“The Vulnerable Body”
Dangerous Beauty/Bellezza Pericolosa, Exhibition Catalogue
PAN/Palazzo delle Arti Napoli, July 2007