Introduction to the Picture I.D.Catalog, University of Texas at Dallas, School of Arts and Humanities, March 2002.

…Kaleta Doolin's digital juxtapositions, portraits and figure studies of the artist/past with the artist/present, reveal a real/ideal dichotomy and critique our culture's futile search for the ideal body. Photographs of the artist taken in her youth provide a record of the artist's body in her prime, a mirror of the advertisements that grace grocery checkout counters, highway billboards and television commercials. The idealized body- trim, long and perfected, frames an inset image that documents an abdominal incision. This medical surgery at middle age scars the body, demonstrates its wear, its endurance over time. For some reason we recoil from the altered body, yet our curiosity always draws us in, reminding us of our own frailty and mortality. The bandages that wrap her head in her series of self-portraits, the scars that crisscross the abdomen in her study beauty marks, all interrupt the body's dominant position in the picture plane.

While the bandages hinder our ability to identify the artist in her self-portrait, the scars ironically provide a current depiction of the body. These marks will provide a means of identification along with other signifiers-- fingerprints, rings, and strands of hair. Doolin's uses digital technology to reveal the flaws that the photographic or digital airbrush hastens to erase. In some ways, Doolin's work is similar to the intense self-documents of artist Hannah Wilke, that review her physical decline at the end of her life and stand in stark contrast to her earlier performance studies in the 1970s. Amelia Jones comments on Wilke's work are helpful here:

The medicalization of Wilke's body and its brutalization through illness turn it from sexual object (of her own and other's pleasure) to scientific object, and yet while the regimes of medicine work to strip away individual identity, Wilke's sense of humor and compulsion to perform once again transform an objectifying practice into an opportunity for self-expression.

Like Wilke, Doolin's extreme juxtapositions convey a sense of humor. She reveals her abdomen marked with a scar that runs across the body like a smile. Rather than lament a lost body of youth, or hide the evidence of physical transformation and pain, Doolin's work performs a wry commentary on mortality. These photographs brought together in time through digital montage, provide an eerie juxtaposition of both subject and photographic treatment.

In self-portrait 2, a series of clinical color headshots stands in contrast to the idealized black and white profile placed below it. Images of the ideal body and the raw document collide in a single composition, producing a friction that underscores both our own vulnerability and our shared quest for the fountain of youth.

Copyright © 2006 Kaleta Doolin