The Canadian Art Database

Joan Murray

CONFRONTING DEMONS: The Tableaux of Dorothy Cameron

at The Art Gallery of Hamilton, May 8 - June 20, 1993 and
The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa ON, July 2 - August 22, 1993

from Private Eye (Selected work from 1979-91)
[ 5,194 words ]

Dorothy Cameron, one of the most respected art dealers of the 1960s, is famous, ironically, for having had Toronto's morality squad remove seven works from her 1965 Eros '65 show for their alleged obscenity. She dislikes remembering her years as a dealer (she long ago destroyed her archives of newspaper and magazine clippings) and has always been reluctant to talk about the painful end of her gallery. Its closing was followed by Cameron's trial for obscenity. She lost, paid her fine, and retired from the business of art.

But since 1978, she has been at work on the creation of her own idiosyncratic art, a series of large installations in clay, papier maché and other materials. She's clearly an original. Her work blends sophistication with deceptive naïvety; it's diaristic memory and observation writ large. Paradoxically, her art suggests that she was never mainly a dealer, simply a person who used the art world for her own purposes and derived pleasure from its possibilities and discipline. Despite her knowledge of Canadian art, she feels no particular allegiance to it. Seeing, feeling, and being aware: these are what matter in her life, and art is merely a means to that end.

Her work is obsessed with consciousness and memory, and in that sense it resembles much of the art of the 1980s and 1990s. What triggers her aesthetic sense is an autobiographical impulse. Her struggle has been to reach for the forms to suit her own expression. In and through her work, she is both mourning and celebrating a life spent as a joyous, ongoing chronicle of hope. Her self-images are propelled from an inner source that is also universal. Her anger and joy fuel her persistence. Ihor Holubizky has written perceptively about the Isaacs Gallery (which was down Yonge Street from the Cameron Gallery) as a sort of Kunst Und Wunderkammern (a cabinet of curiosities), combining art's marvels and prodigies in a single space. Cameron internalized her 'Wonder Cabinet' and played out her passion in fervent and obsessive works.

Sculpture, she would say, is in her blood. Her interest dates back to 1934 at school in Florence, where she was daily exposed to Donatello and Michelangelo, and to painters such as Botticelli, and Fra Angelico. After study at the University of Toronto, she studied modern art at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.

In the early 1950s, she became an acknowledged leader of the contemporary art scene in Toronto, working first with the Volunteers of the Art Gallery of Toronto as Public Relations Chairman for their annual exhibition of Canadian art. In 1959, spurred on by Harold Town, she opened the Here and Now Gallery on Cumberland Street; in 1962 she opened the Dorothy Cameron Gallery Ltd. on Yonge Street, where in 1963 she decided to concentrate on sculpture. That moment was particularly rich for sculpture in Canadian and world art. In New York, Cameron had been fascinated by Degas's sculpture of a little ballet dancer, loving the contrast of the modelled bronze surface with the real gauze ballet skirt and real silk hair ribbon. In the 1950s and 1960s, 'assemblage' was emerging as a distinctly American form of sculpture, and this art of joining unlikely objects in a single context had an impact. She particularly noted the experimentation of one American, Ed Kienholz, who understood the Surrealist point-of-view, though his brutal sensibility was at odds with her own poetic nature. His powerful images of death and decay were never echoed in her softer and more humorous work.

She had other loves; a personal delight in Florine Stettheimer's dollhouse, now in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the miniature sets for Mozart's operas which she had seen in Salzburg, and the bewitching, magical, glittering interior of the dome in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. When the time came to make her own work, she drew on all these sources as well as on Joe Fafard's studies of old people, and the boxed enclosures of Tony Urquhart and Joseph Cornell. They served as a rich brew for her imagination: she used them, transformed, in her own unique, elegant, flamboyant mixture.

Yet another factor influenced her art-making: her dreams, her inner searchings and her readings of Carl Jung. Instead of the cool abstractions of much of contemporary art, she chose the warmth and involvement of the human figure in room-like settings of brilliant colour, tableaux of transformed memory. This exhibition works chronologically, beginning with Her Last Christmas, a portrait sculpture of Dorothy's mother on her deathbed, moving on to Her Master's Voice, where she faces the demon of patriarchal expectations, then The Martini Olive, where a child on a highchair is wounded by the toothpick piercing the olive of its mother's martini, then The Marriage Bed, in which love is transformed by suffering, and finally Carousel, her Magnum Opus, in which Jungian analysis combines with the world of magic. The show also works in reverse: from Carousel to Her Last Christmas forms a landscape of the imagination that one wanders through, much as Cameron must have wandered the museums she had visited, which themselves are other forms of imaginative landscape.

Curiously, despite intense absorption in Canadian art, her work does not resemble any of it. Her structure arises partly from the private world of home life and relationships, from puppets and dioramas, and from children's toys. What's striking in her art is how completely she transforms what look like unpromising sources into authoritative works. She is making sculpture that reflects, as though through a glass darkly, her sense of her own being as a Wunderkammern, and her sense of her own soul's journey. Yet her works, while derived from self-perception, don't concern only Dorothy Cameron. They are also about the hidden meaning of modern women's lives. Carousel talks specifically about different stages of life, different personalities, different ways of proceeding through, and with, time.

When they make choices, artists take chances. Cameron's choice has been riskier than most: she has transformed her personal life by confronting it head on. The result is invigorating, enabling us to view her art as a combination of reflection and expression.

It is now nearly sixty years since Dorothy Cameron returned from Florence, the city which gave a ten-year-old child her first dazzling perception of the transcendent powers of the visual imagination. Today, late in her life's journey, her work may help teach us how to unlock the jumbled history we make throughout our lives, of books, museums, and ideas, and how to battle our personal demons. That these, transformed, can serve as a basis for artistic truth reaffirms our understanding of art as a way of organizing identity. Dorothy Cameron's mission is to face herself and in the process to make art. Her project is 'admittedly risky,' as she says, but helps her re-imagine the world, and so redeem her life. She is uninterested in achieving a conventional 'success' but keeps up the battle for its own sake, and for those of us who can borrow strength from her vision.


Dorothy Cameron
Reflections from my Work

This dying old woman is in the process of becoming her own tombstone. Propped against her pillow like the polychrome effigy on a Fayum sarcophagus, she appears as indifferent to the newly flowering spring grass on which her bed has mysteriously come to rest, as she is to the clownish holly sprig which has been stuck in her hair...perhaps by those same nursing hands that have rouged her cheeks for Christmas. Absently, she tilts her glass of holiday wine, letting it drain into her sheet — the drops of a spilt life. Cocooned in the final dignity of dying, impervious to the party 'favour' thrust into her limp hand, the old woman lies there — sad, bored, and ready to take her leave.

At her back where she cannot see it, a tree bursts into life. Spangled with pink blossoms, its branches radiate above her head. Behind this resurrection-tree stands the door of death. Painted on the door is an orchid in full bloom. A glittering aureole of petalled pink, like a great jewelled flower, fills the painted sky. Perched on the door-frame, the old woman's soul-bird (what the ancient Egyptians would have called her 'Ba') seems headed toward that high blossoming light.

Over the door hangs a small painting of a child in a white nightgown dancing for joy. Perhaps the child is a dream of the old woman's; perhaps simply another image of her soul.

This is a piece about Daddy's girl — a little girl who refuses to grow up. Instead, her life is dedicated to pleasing the long-dead Daddy who is still alive inside her. She wears Daddy's fedora. She smokes Daddy's cigar ( — and if you look closely you will see that the cigar spells out: 'POP'S PRIDE'). Her baby's rattle is a death rattle: a miniature effigy of Daddy's death's head; and her own mouth is connected to Daddy's skull-mouth by a shiny golden chain. She speaks only the words he is dictating, the words he dictated so long ago. In fact, she is a ventriloquist's dummy: a perfect little puppet-of-a-Charlie-McCarthy to Daddy's Edgar Bergen. She can utter only Daddy's opinions, his ideas, his prejudices. There is no outlet for her own feelings, no chance for her femininity to flourish and mature. Instead, she is Daddy's STAR to the end of her days, performing for him on this tiny stage which is also her cage — and so remains a middle-aged baby forever.

From a highchair, an enchanted child — perhaps a boy, perhaps a girl — reaches toward an adored mother who is all dressed up for an evening out in the spangles of a flapper. The bewitched child has been painted sky-blue and dabbled with dreamy wisps of cloud. Afloat on her own little rain-cloud of tears, the mother too seems caught in a state of possession. Perhaps she is spellbound by social ambition, or obsessed by conventions of 'duty' and 'goodness': or perhaps she is chained to a loveless marriage by the powerful lure of wealth and prestige. Like a cardboard martyr with painted wounds, like a weeping, crucified paper doll, she grasps a martini glass for comfort and offers her child a gin-soaked olive on a sharp blood-stained toothpick. This bitter olive, this fruit of the Tree of Worldly Knowledge, this acid symbol of deadly values — is all the nourishment she knows how to give.

From this day on the palm of the child's right hand will carry the stigma of that spiked olive like a scarlet star of warning — a reminder of sad, misguided wrong — which will someday break the mother's spell forever.

But for now there are other stars, the personal stars of a future freely chosen. In the child's left hand, a five-pointed light. On the child's breast, like a shining badge, the shimmer of fate as heart's desire — avid and never-ending.

KIRKLAND LAKE BREAKFAST (1983-84) For Fraser Boa
In this interior scene, an ecstatic little girl, like a fiery rose bouquet, is being fed breakfast by her shamanic crony, an enigmatic Doctor who appears to be part pharaoh, pull-toy and black-winged god.

Outside the window it is winter. In a northern field of towering mine-heads stand three small girls in white fur, three ghostly mannequins of snow. Frozen with longing, they stare through the glass into the glowing world of the rapturous rose-red child within. Here a fried egg, huge as the morning sun, covers the breakfast table, as coins of egg-yolk drop to the floor, like gold once mined from the frozen ground.

Here, dripping with yellow, the Doctor's fork is raised to the rose-child's lips. What he offers her is the food of illumination, the sudden sunlight of self-revelation, the priceless gold of self-knowledge.

'I see you, child!' flashes the eye on his blazing head-mirror.

'I hear you!' hisses his stethoscope, twined with snakes.

Fearless and lit with wonder, the child touches the Doctor's sleeve. Soon she will sense that this healing God is within her rather than without; that her favourite pharaoh-on-wheels is the playmate of her own imagination. Still later, she will understand him as her inner lover and secret accomplice: the masculine side of her feminine nature, the nurturer of her untried gifts, the beloved taskmaster and lifelong guide of her soul.

This bed is a place of transformation, a fire-altar of sacrifice and redemption. Its canopy is a wedding veil.

'You call this a marriage bed?' protested one very new and puzzled bride. 'But the figures in it aren't even touching!'

Between these middle-aged lovers on the bed there is indeed a sacrament of separateness, a pact for breathing-space between distinct and independent selves.

As we watch them now, they encourage each other with their eyes and salute each other with glasses of blood-red wine. For each is surviving the physical wound of a spiritual transformation: the wound that each must endure alone — though supported and honoured by the other. As jubilant as a bride and groom, in this wedding of wounds they celebrate joint renewal.

Naked and bleeding, his body slashed by the savage stigmata of by-pass surgery, the husband holds his endangered heart in his hand. Joined to the open gash in his breast by a lifeline of scarlet artery, the heart is beginning to sprout green leaves, tender new shoots from the deep underground of his feeling.

At the end of her own arterial lifeline, joined to the patch on her blinded eye, the wife holds an eyeball struck with lightning, like the blasted globe of a tiny moon that still reflects the light. Diminished eyesight for deeper insight — is this the trade-off she might achieve? She smiles at her bridegroom across their pillows; sees him at last without illusion; and is able to love him just as he is.

CAROUSEL (1988-91)
We could see this Carousel as simply a rather large and joyous child's toy. Or we could see it as the wheel of life, a spinning mandala of revolving and evolving cycles of experience, turning and returning through the various stages and colours of our unique lives. By journey's end, when this ride is over and the circling fragments of ourselves have at last revealed their meaning, some overall pattern may disclose itself — some mysterious epiphany of divine intention.

I have sliced the carousel platform like a pie into four wedge-shaped tableaux of 'loaded' colour to suggest the four elemental qualities of character that coexist (whether nurtured or ignored) within the depths of every human being. Placed directly across from one another, these paired wedges are intended as psychologically complementary colours — no relation to the scientifically complementary pairing of red with green etc. I have placed them as I understand them: sun-soaring intuitive yellow opposite the sensuous grounding of green; hot, passionate red opposite cool, reflective blue. Each colour-tableau contains a horse and a clown-rider — the horse is a universal symbol of animal drive, physicality, and the energy of instinct; the clown-rider, or Holy Fool, is perhaps a more personal symbol for the human essence as either masculine spirit or feminine soul.

YELLOW and GREEN: As secretly collaborating 'opposites', driving men and women alike on a shifting seesaw between the poles of inspired intuition and pragmatic action — these colours symbolize for me the essentially MASCULINE energies of the spirit.

RED and BLUE: The colours of feeling and understanding represent for me the humanising inclinations of the FEMININE in both men and women. Gone for the moment are the great green and yellow beasts of masculine drive and aspiration. These smaller red and blue mares are bridled. Their tall chaperones, the female clowns, are clearly in control. The extremer urgencies of instinct and ambition now seem gentled and guided by the balancing guardians of the soul.

The YELLOW Tableau: Probing the air with his long excited nose, this small bedazzled yellow clown appears to have caught the sudden sunburst of a Brand New Idea...and is instantly borne away by that great glittering gold-maned stallion of his rearing Intuition! That he must 'go for' the vision of untried possibility is all he seems to know. He dares not stop for a second to question HOW.

The GREEN Tableau: At first glance, intuitive vision appears to have crashed to the ground along with this grinning green clown, who has been thrown and gored by the implacable green unicorn of Nature's harsh reality (that is, by the actual, factual sensate world in which we all must survive.) The green unicorn, this sap-stained beast of the wildwood, is for me the incarnated shadow of the legendary white unicorn; the savage underside of that icon for gentleness. Cruel but fecund, sprouting new leaves above a bloody, stabbing horn, the unicorn of Reality, for some of us, is the trickiest steed of all to train and ride! But our green clown is himself a trickster, a jester, and a laughing creature of nature's most undominatable will; and like the ithyphallic satyr, he stays erect to try and try again! And though he may fail many times before he succeeds...he will always manage to land hands first on the green earth...and from that grounding touch will draw his own rebounding strength. Without this defiant 'devil' in our collective gut, without this joker's crazy perseverance — his stubborn capacity for concentrated hard work — no potent impulse of imagination, no aspiring insight of art or science, no creative dream would ever be acted out, worked through, or brought to shining life!

The RED Tableau could be seen as a kind of Pieta of the unguarded heart at its most tender and spontaneous. In a passion of tears, the red clown cradles a small red mare with a sword in its open side. The clown weeps for the wounded animal in herself — and in all of us. Through personal pain she has learned compassion for others.

The BLUE Tableau is concerned with REFLECTION, that moon-silvered path to meaning and to the ancient female wisdom of Sophia. For me this is the other, cooler side of feeling. The blue clown's eyes are white and sightless: hers is the insight of the inner eye. To show her little mare its own true face, she holds a looking glass. As I envision her, this smiling Fool is she who mirrors for us our inner selves; she who helps us to understand the complex natures of one another; and she alone who can see the pattern of purpose beneath the confusion of our lives. She is aware, or so I believe, that in each of us the dominant facets of personality — the yellow, the green, the red and the blue — are mysteriously interconnected; and although each of us has an inborn tendency to favour one or the other, that to explore ALL FOUR, to try to use to the fullest all of our gifts, may mean, eventually, to become WHOLE. And I believe that is why the blue clown smiles.

The LOVERS. At the pinnacle of the Carousel, in deep embrace, are a white moon-crowned woman with flaring butterfly wings of red and blue, and a black suncrowned male with wings of yellow and green. These are the Lovers, the Sacred Pair of complementary Opposites, the two halves of God. Like Shiva and Shakti, like the Yin and the Yang, like the Sol and Luna of alchemy — they represent the reconciliation of the Dark and the Light within us. The place they inhabit is the motivating centre and goal of our long cyclic journey. This is the place where the shadow side of the spirit, the fallen Lucifer in ourselves whom we have despised and rejected, is at last acknowledged, embraced and received by our radiant soul. This is the moment of the holy marriage when inner masculine and inner feminine come together in mutual transformation; when the wound is healed; the four colours converge and a greater personality is born — more generous, more receptive, more joyous. This is the moment of wholeness. Perhaps it happens before we die. Perhaps a second after.

The concept of the Carousel as a roundabout journey to wholeness must be responsive to infinite variations in individual human psychology. Since this is MY Carousel, I have felt quite free to adapt the four colour-coded functions discovered by Carl Jung to suit a bias of emphasis which reflects my personal journey.


Ihor Holubizky

On Dorothy Cameron

One of the memorable 'dream' paintings in art is John Henry Fuseli's The Nightmare (1785-90). A maiden (we presume) appears to us, moulded, landscape-like, on a couch, her head and arms plummeting to the floor. A demonic creature is squatting squarely on her chest, looking back at her propped up legs (decorously covered by a long gown). The head of a white, ghostlike, horse appears from curtains behind, with flared nostrils and milk bottle eyes (no pupils). Is this the demon's steed, a rescuing knight's charge, or another terrorizing demon, knowing some easy prey. Nothing about this painting seems right. The figure is done in a Neoclassical style. The demon could be a medieval gargoyle, but the horse looks like a 20th century image — Freudian derived illustration, via surrealism, or an invention by one of Disney's animators (circa Fantasia) who went off the deep end and no longer wanted to serve 'Walt and Mouse'. Such paintings are endlessly compelling to look at and ponder — seemingly complete as narratives, but at the same time frustrating and painfully incomplete. If, as a German acquaintance of Fuseli's described him as 'extreme in everything', (1)  then why should he have backed down when brush was in hand? If not entirely Romantic, Mannerist, Symbolist, or Neoclassical, Fuseli's painting can be considered an original vision rather than a pastiche.

Being an original means not being concerned with the inevitable indexing by academics, poised to 'sign, seal and deliver' unruly works of art. Dorothy Cameron, as Joan Murray has stated in her essay, is an original. (But that is only part of the story.) Originality is too often applied liberally, in the absence of any other attempt to determine what is there and its meaning for us. There are numerous original versions in art-works (and artists) 'appearing out of nowhere and 'out of time'. They cannot be readily imitated but, by extension, greatly admired for the sense of wonder that they embody.

The Swiss artist, Meret Oppenheim, is best known for her sculpture, Luncheon in Fur (1936), a fur-covered cup, saucer and spoon — a work which has been 'indexed' within the (predominantly male-dominated) surrealist movement of the time. Hindsight has revealed to us a startling, prescient vision of a sexual / feminist perspective. Another work, from the same year, entitled My Nurse, is equally provocative. It is a modest assemblage comprising a trussed-up pair of women's stiletto-heeled shoes 'laid out' on a serving platter — a denouement of sexual desire and disquiet. It draws us into the realm of the 'not-so-innocent', where 'oral satisfaction' is both denied and reinforced through fashion. (Madonna has a long way to go to top this succinct bondage vision.)

Marcel Duchamp's The Large Glass (1915 - 1923) is another pivotal work, both for his own career and its 'place' in modern art. It emerged from a 'flash of inspiration' but took shape in a painstaking and meticulous process. The heavily coded images, motifs and diagrams run the gamut from intellectual concerns to poetic fights and coiled linguistic references, executed on a free-standing sheet of glass. Duchamp provided notes, which ironically (or intentionally) only add to the mystery of its meaning. Included in these notes is the deceptive term, 'love gasoline', which he claimed was the fuel driving the mechanical bodies in the lower section of the work.

Another original is James Hampton — a janitor and reclusive self-proclaimed prophet of the apocalypse, who lived in Washington D.C. On his death, in 1964, his project, The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly (like Duchamp's Large Glass), was incomplete. Hampton had worked on this monumental tableau, composed of old furniture and found objects covered in gold and silver foil, since the early 1950's. The Throne celebrated and forewarned of the Second Coming, congested with references to Jesus, the New and Old Testaments, and the Law. Hampton's work is distinct from that of other contemporary black folk artists in that he did not aspire to public exhibitions. The Throne was unknown until its discovery in Hampton's rented garage, adding to the intensity and determination of his endeavor.

Moving further out from the mainstreams of visual culture, we come across the English performer, Ian Dury, and his repertoire of half-spoken songs (all the more remarkable in a period inundated by quirkiness), turning the conventions of British music hall sing-alongs and Rock and Roll on its side, while suggesting a way out of the nihilism of Punk. The chorus of a 1978 song (Stiff Records, England) parodied the steamy, sexual intensity of Motown music as an uncertain celebration of masochism, framed by nonsequiturs:

In the wilds of Borneo
And the vineyards of Bordeaux
Eskimo, Arapaho
Move their bodies, to and fro
Hit me with your rhythm stick
Hit me slowly, hit me quick.

Dury's album, Do it Yourself (1979, Stiff Records), celebrated personal angst in Dance of the Screamers ('I'm screaming, just for you, from the last place in the queue'), replete, naturally, with a chorus of disembodied screams. He followed it with the androgynous Lullaby for Francis.

It is important to keep these examples and artists in peripheral view when approaching Dorothy Cameron's work, and in particular, her sculpture entitled Carousel. Because of the complex grouping of symbols and signs, it must be dealt with in some detail. It is, on first viewing, and as Cameron admits, a 'rather large and joyous child's toy.' Nothing could be further from the truth (and truth is what we seek). She gives us clues, a la Duchamp, to the levels of meaning and symbolism. (Cameron's 'guide', ostensibly, is much clearer than that provided by Duchamp.) The primary colours of the four tableaux, red, yellow, green, and blue, correspond to passion, intuition, sensuality and reflection. Colour is amplified by the symbols of a horse and clown-rider repeated in each. (The clown appears twice as a man and twice as a woman. Cameron calls them the 'Holy Fools'.) In the yellow tableau the clown is caught in the euphoria of a 'new idea' and is being carried away on a rearing stallion, in an attempt to seek the untried possibilities (as Duchamp did with The Large Glass) which lay ahead. In the green tableau, the harsh reality of Nature appears. The clown has been thrown and gored by the horse, and is momentarily transformed into a mythical unicorn. In the red tableau, the clown cradles a small wounded red mare. She weeps for the wounded animal in herself, and extends this compassion to humanity. In the blue tableau, the sign of reflection (of self) appears. The (now) sightless clown holds a looking glass to the face of the mare — as if something can be revealed or experience transferred through this gesture.

But there's more. A white moon-crowned woman embraces a black, sun-crowned man at the top (a wedding cake ornament). Cameron speaks of the 'holy marriage', where the psychological duality of gender and accompanying longings, desires and fears, fuse at some indeterminate moment before eternity.

Returning to the horse in the tableaux, we can ponder its relationship to the 'night mare' of Fuseli's painting — both powerfully charged symbols that can trigger the subconscious, but defy explanation. (2)  As with Fuseli's demon-creature, we must confront other questions. Does the demon seek entry to the soul, to inhabit (willingly or unwillingly, by its host), or is it being expelled from the body, to be given independent life (or to reveal itself to others, if only for a moment). Could this be a protector, misunderstood as the tormentor? (The woman does not appear in immediate peril.) If Fuseli leaves the pressure valve of subconscious fears capped — the Carousel has a conditional release — a crank by which we can 'turn the works'. It always comes round to where we started, reminding us that all these instinctive feelings occupy some aspect of this place and our psyches and, in Cameron's view, a form of redemption to Fuseli's 'angst vision'.

This, dear viewer, is obviously not a set piece from a child's story. Like Oppenheim's My Nurse, and its food-body / lust dialectic, Carousel is a free adaption and reflection for Cameron's own spirit and soul. She has turned it into an essay on masculine spirit or feminine soul — the anima (in psychoanalytic terms, the inner personality turned toward the unconscious of the individual and a feminine principle, in contrast to the public persona) and the animus — the masculine principle, as present in women. Cameron describes this work as 'some mysterious epiphany of divine intention.' This phrase, however, is as cloaked as our first impression is misplaced.

The work that precedes it, The Marriage Bed is as uncompromisingly direct, in its social narrative, as Carousel is expansive in its cyclorama of inner secrets. Cameron sees the bed as a 'place of transformation, a fire-altar of sacrifice and (again) redemption.' Man and wife are poised on this bed, bonded by its sense of place, but showing real signs of personal and physical suffering, which is directed and projected out. The man is naked and bleeding, holding his heart in his hand, an artery joined back to his chest. The woman holds an eyeball struck by lightning. If they cannot be at peace, they can at least be survivors. Resignation? Acceptance? Other examples of images of physical suffering and transcendence — wearing the heart on the 'outside' — can be seen in the self portraits by Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), as well as in the portraits she did of her husband, the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. Cameron's 'autobiographical' couple can 'look forward' to that bond in eternity — fuelled by Duchamp's 'gasoline of love', or taking solace in Ian Dury's lullaby; Go to sleep now, Francis, You've done all you can for the day...Tumble down, tired and true, Spirit to restore, balances to you.

'Pillow talk' is not out of the question, but it is not what we crave. The drag stream between the emotional and the intellectual is constant in contemporary art. 'We admire the latter, but desire the former. Dorothy Cameron is neither vague nor hesitant about standing on the side of feeling'.

from Private Eye (Selected work from 1979-91)

Text: © Joan Murray. All rights reserved.

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